Interferon-alpha differentially rescues CD4 and CD8 T cells from apoptosis in HIV infection

AIDS. 2006 Jun 26;20(10):1379-89. doi: 10.1097/01.aids.0000233571.51899.ab.


Objective: To examine the effects of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) on T cell survival and activation in HIV infection.

Design: The effects of IFN-alpha on spontaneous apoptosis and CD38 expression among T cell subsets were determined in vitro and studied in relation to CD4 cell counts, plasma HIV RNA levels and the age of the subjects.

Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 48 HIV-infected persons and 17 healthy donors were incubated in vitro overnight with or without the addition of IFN-alpha. Percentages of apoptotic cells (positive for annexin V) and CD38 cells were determined among T cell subsets.

Results: IFN-alpha inhibited spontaneous apoptosis of CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes. This protective activity was impaired in CD4 T cells from HIV-infected persons. The reduced protection of IFN-alpha among CD4 cells from HIV-infected persons was not related to the percentages of activated (CD38 or CD45RO+CD38+) cells. Surprisingly, IFN-alpha induced CD38 expression among CD8 T cells from HIV-infected persons, and the magnitude of this effect was directly related to circulating CD4 T cell count. The CD8 T cell subset that expressed CD38 in response to IFN-alpha was defined as CD28 negative, CD62 ligand (CD62L) intermediate/negative.

Conclusions: Heightened expression of IFN-alpha in HIV infection may contribute to the phenotypic activation state that characterizes chronic infection while a diminished responsiveness of CD4 T cells to the protective effect of this cytokine may contribute to differential survival of CD4 and CD8 T cells in HIV disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1 / analysis
  • Adult
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / pharmacology*
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / analysis
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Recombinant Proteins


  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • RNA, Viral
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1