HIV type 1 gp120-induced expansion of myeloid derived suppressor cells is dependent on interleukin 6 and suppresses immunity

J Infect Dis. 2014 Feb 1;209(3):441-51. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit469. Epub 2013 Sep 1.


Background: Factors responsible for myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC) expansion and T-cell dysfunction during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) infection are unknown. This study investigated the role of MDSCs during HIV infection.

Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were cultured with gp120 and infectious or inactivated HIV, with or without anti-interleukin 6 (IL-6) antibody. CD33(+), CD4(+), and CD8(+) cells were isolated from PBMCs and cocultured in the presence or absence of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), reactive oxygen species (ROS), and arginase 1 inhibitors. CD11b(+)CD33(+)CD14(+)HLA-DR(-/lo) MDSCs, phosphorylated STAT3 (pSTAT3), and CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(+) cells were evaluated by flow cytometry. IL-6, interferon γ (IFN-γ), interleukin 10 (IL-10), and gp120 levels were quantified by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results: MDSCs expanded when PBMCs were exposed to infectious or inactivated HIV. Exposure to gp120 led to MDSC expansion, with increases in IL-6 levels and pSTAT3 expression. Anti-IL-6 abrogated MDSC expansion and pSTAT3 expression. gp120-expanded CD33(+) MDSCs inhibited IFN-γ release from autologous T cells, which was restored upon ROS and iNOS inhibition. gp120-expanded CD33(+) MDSCs increased IL-10 and CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(+) regulatory T-cell levels in CD4(+) T-cell cocultures. Finally, high frequencies of MDSCs were present in HIV-infected persons, compared with healthy controls.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that HIV gp120 induces IL-6 and MDSC expansion, which contributes to immune suppression by modulating cytokine and cellular responses.

Keywords: HIV-1; IL-6; Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells; gp120.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / analysis
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120 / immunology*
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • Male
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, CD
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp120
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Interleukin-6
  • gp120 protein, Human immunodeficiency virus 1
  • Interferon-gamma