Analyses of Mitochondrial DNA and Immune Phenotyping Suggest Accelerated T-Cell Turnover in Treated HIV

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2018 Nov 1;79(3):399-406. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001824.


Background: HIV infection is associated with premature aging, and mitochondrial integrity is compromised during the aging process. Because mitochondrial toxicity is a consequence of antiretroviral therapies (ARTs), we hypothesized HIV and long-term ART would correlate with immunosenescence and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) pathology.

Setting: Thirteen older HIV-infected individuals (aged >40 years) with virologic suppression (stratified by duration of ART) were compared with 10 uninfected controls well-matched for age.

Methods: Peripheral blood T-cells were immunophenotyped to measure immune activation, proliferation, and immunosenescence in subsets. mtDNA copies per cell and the relative abundance of mtDNA carrying the "common deletion" (RACD) were quantified by droplet digital polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Immune activation was higher in HIV-infected individuals than HIV-uninfected individuals in mature CD4 T-cell subsets (CD4TTM P = 0.025, CD4TEM P = 0.0020) regardless of ART duration. Cell populations from uninfected individuals were more likely to be more senescent populations in mature CD4 T-cell subsets (TTM P = 0.017), and CD8 (CD8TEMRA+ P = 0.0026). No differences were observed in mtDNA or RACD levels in any CD4 T-cell subsets, while CD8TSCM of infected individuals trended to have more mtDNA (P = 0.057) and reduced RACD (P = 0.0025).

Conclusions: HIV-infected individuals demonstrated increased immune activation, but reduced senescence in more mature T-cell subsets. Increased mtDNA content and lower RACD in CD8TSCM suggest immune activation driven turnover of these cells in HIV-infected persons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cellular Senescence
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation Rate
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • T-Lymphocytes / chemistry*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial