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Keywords:

  • simian/human immunodeficiency virus;
  • CD4+ lymphocyte depletion;
  • apoptosis;
  • CD95;
  • CD95 ligand

Using an established SIV/HIV-C2/1-infected cynomolgus monkey model displaying stable CD4+ T cell depletion, the kinetics of apoptosis and the levels of expression of CD95 membrane-associated CD95L on lymphocytes were investigated to test the involvement of the CD95/CD95L system in CD4+ T lymphocyte loss in vivo. Rapid depletion of CD4+ T cells occurred up to 2 weeks after infection, with chronic CD4+ T lymphopenia thereafter. During the initial CD4+ T cell loss, which was accompanied by viraemia, about 90% of the peripheral CD4+ T cell subset underwent spontaneous apoptotic cell death during 24 h of culture. Increased expression of CD95 was observed on both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets, with CD95 expression on CD8+ cells declining rapidly, but high CD95 expression being maintained on CD4+ cells. Since CD95L was expressed on CD8+ T cells, B cells and to a lesser extent on CD4+ T cells, this suggests that CD95-mediated apoptosis might be controlled in an autocrine/paracrine fashion.