Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Generalized immune activation as a direct result of activated CD4+ T cell killing

Rute Marques1, Adam Williams25, Urszula Eksmond1, Andy Wullaert3, Nigel Killeen4, Manolis Pasparakis3, Dimitris Kioussis2 and George Kassiotis1*

Author affiliations

1 Division of Immunoregulation, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, London NW7 1AA, UK

2 Division of Molecular Immunology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, London NW7 1AA, UK

3 Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Strasse 47, 50674 Cologne, Germany

4 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

5 Department of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

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Citation and License

Journal of Biology 2009, 8:93  doi:10.1186/jbiol194

Published: 27 November 2009

Abstract

Background

In addition to progressive CD4+ T cell immune deficiency, HIV infection is characterized by generalized immune activation, thought to arise from increased microbial exposure resulting from diminishing immunity.

Results

Here we report that, in a virus-free mouse model, conditional ablation of activated CD4+ T cells, the targets of immunodeficiency viruses, accelerates their turnover and produces CD4+ T cell immune deficiency. More importantly, activated CD4+ T cell killing also results in generalized immune activation, which is attributable to regulatory CD4+ T cell insufficiency and preventable by regulatory CD4+ T cell reconstitution. Immune activation in this model develops independently of microbial exposure. Furthermore, microbial translocation in mice with conditional disruption of intestinal epithelial integrity affects myeloid but not T cell homeostasis.

Conclusions

Although neither ablation of activated CD4+ T cells nor disruption of intestinal epithelial integrity in mice fully reproduces every aspect of HIV-associated immune dysfunction in humans, ablation of activated CD4+ T cells, but not disruption of intestinal epithelial integrity, approximates the two key immune alterations in HIV infection: CD4+ T cell immune deficiency and generalized immune activation. We therefore propose activated CD4+ T cell killing as a common etiology for both immune deficiency and activation in HIV infection.

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