Increased Fas-mediated apoptosis in polymorphonuclear cells from HIV-infected patients

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Neutrophils represent an important line of innate host defence against invading microorganisms and their functional detriment during HIV infection, including accelerated spontaneous cell death, has been shown to contribute to AIDS development. Neutrophils are susceptible to apoptosis via Fas and an interaction between Fas and FasL was suggested originally as a mechanism to explain constitutive neutrophil apoptosis. We have explored some intracellular pathways leading to PMN apoptosis from 28 HIV-infected patients and 24 healthy volunteers. As previously reported, accelerated spontaneous apoptosis was observed in HIV+ patients, but this did not correlate with viral load. Furthermore, an increase in the level of spontaneous apoptosis was detected in neutrophils from HIV-infected patients following inhibition of ERK, suggesting an impairment of this kinase pathway during the early stages of infection which may contribute to PMN dysfunction. An elevated susceptibility to undergo apoptosis was observed following cross-linking of Fas, which correlated both with viral load and co-expression of Fas/FasL surface molecules. Different mechanisms for spontaneous and Fas-induced apoptosis are proposed which together contribute to the neutropenia and secondary infections observed during the progression to AIDS.

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