Increased thymic output in HIV-negative patients after antiretroviral therapy

AIDS. 2005 Sep 23;19(14):1467-72. doi: 10.1097/01.aids.0000182520.69159.8a.


Objective: To determine the effects of antiretroviral therapy on thymic output independent of HIV infection.

Methods: Thymic output was evaluated by quantifying signal joint T-cell receptor (TCR) recombination excision circles in peripheral blood lymphocytes from HIV-negative patients undergoing prophylactic antiretroviral therapy. Additionally, effects of the HIV protease inhibitor nelfinavir were assessed in vivo on TCR-induced death of murine double-positive thymocytes.

Results: Five out of seven HIV-negative patients undergoing prophylactic antiretroviral therapy exhibited a dramatic increase (1-3 log10) in recent thymic emigrants containing signal joint TCR recombination excision circles while their peripheral T cell compartments remained relatively unaffected. None of the patients developed subsequent HIV infections. Interestingly, nelfinavir did not have significant effects on TCR-induced apoptosis of murine thymocytes in vivo.

Conclusion: Antiretroviral therapy augments thymic output independent of HIV. Furthermore, nelfinavir does not dramatically affect TCR-induced thymocyte death in mice, thus central tolerance remains intact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Seronegativity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell