Immune Reconstitution Bone Loss Exacerbates Bone Degeneration Due to Natural Aging in a Mouse Model

J Infect Dis. 2022 Aug 12;226(1):38-48. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiab631.


Background: Immune reconstitution bone loss (IRBL) is a common side-effect of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in people with human immunodeficiency virus (PWH). Immune reconstitution bone loss acts through CD4+ T-cell/immune reconstitution-induced inflammation and is independent of antiviral regimen. Immune reconstitution bone loss may contribute to the high rate of bone fracture in PWH, a cause of significant morbidity and mortality. Although IRBL is transient, it remains unclear whether bone recovers, or whether it is permanently denuded and further compounds bone loss associated with natural aging.

Methods: We used a validated IRBL mouse model involving T-cell reconstitution of immunocompromised mice. Mice underwent cross-sectional bone phenotyping of femur and/or vertebrae between 6 and 20 months of age by microcomputed tomography (µCT) and quantitative bone histomorphometry. CD4+ T cells were purified at 20 months to quantify osteoclastogenic/inflammatory cytokine expression.

Results: Although cortical IRBL in young animals recovered with time, trabecular bone loss was permanent and exacerbated skeletal decline associated with natural aging. At 20 months of age, reconstituted CD4+ T cells express enhanced osteoclastogenic cytokines including RANKL, interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-17A, and tumor necrosis factor-α, consistent with elevated osteoclast numbers.

Conclusions: Immune reconstitution bone loss in the trabecular compartment is permanent and further exacerbates bone loss due to natural aging. If validated in humans, interventions to limit IRBL may be important to prevent fractures in aging PWH.

Keywords: HIV; T cells; aging; antiretroviral therapy; immune reconstitution bone loss.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • Humans
  • Immune Reconstitution*
  • Mice
  • X-Ray Microtomography


  • Cytokines