Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is principally a mucosal disease and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the major site of HIV replication. Loss of CD4+ T cells and systemic immune hyperactivation are the hallmarks of HIV infection. The end of acute infection is associated with the emergence of specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses and the establishment of a chronic phase of infection. Abnormal levels of immune activation and inflammation persist despite a low steady state level of viremia. Although the causes of persistent immune hyperactivation remain incompletely characterized, physiological alterations of gastrointestinal tract probably play a major role. Failure to restore Th17 cells in gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) might impair the recovery of the gut mucosal barrier. This review discusses recent advances on understanding the contribution of CD4+ T cell depletion to HIV pathogenesis.
Keywords: HIV; apoptosis; viral proteins.