Selective thymocyte depletion in neonatal HIV-1 thymic infection

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine the impact of HIV-1 infection on thymocyte development, and the role of thymic infection on the pathogenesis of neonatal HIV-1 infection.

Design and methods:

The consequences of thymic infection by HIV-1 were examined by comparative histologic and molecular analyses of an asymptomatic, HIV-1-seropositive 3-day-old subject, versus age- and treatment-matched controls. The presence of replicating virus was established by in situ hybridization with specific molecular probes to HIV-1. The distribution of thymocyte subsets was determined by quantitative flow cytometry following staining with antibodies to CD4 and CD8 cell surface proteins.

Results:

The results show clear evidence of severe thymic involution, HIV-1 infection of thymocytes, and selective depletion of thymocyte subpopulations. The consequences of HIV-1 infection were a marked depletion of CD3+CD4+CD8hi and CD3+CD4+CD8− cells. The phenotype of the residual thymic lymphoid population was predominantly that of immature CD3−CD4−CD8− double negative and CD3+CD4+CD8lo cells.

Conclusion:

Changes in the distribution of thymocyte subsets suggests a role for thymic involvement in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection in neonates.

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