• HIV infection;
  • apoptosis;
  • necrosis


We used flow cytometry to quantitate cells that die by apoptosis or necrosis. The method uses low concentrations of two DNA binding dyes that allow one to establish selective regions for live, apoptotic, and necrotic cells in a rat thymocytes model. Quantitative analysis of blood lymphocyte death in individuals with HIV infection by this technique shows the presence of nonviable cells that exhibit a spectrum of changes in staining by DNA binding dyes. These changes range from typical features of cells undergoing programmed cell death or apoptosis to changes observed in cells that die by accidental death or necrosis. The proportion of cells exhibiting these lethal changes increases significantly in patients who progress to AIDS, but, although cells with staining features associated with apoptosis and necrosis were both found to be increased in in vitro-activated cells from AIDS patients, spontaneous in vivo activation preferentially leads to apoptotic changes without a significant increase of cells exhibiting the staining changes associated with necrosis. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.