Interferon-alpha administration enhances CD8+ T cell activation in HIV infection

Maura Manion, Benigno Rodriguez, Kathleen Medvik, Gareth Hardy, Clifford V. Harding, Robert T. Schooley, Richard Pollard, David Asmuth, Robert Murphy, Edward Barker, Kirsten E. Brady, Alan Landay, Nick Funderburg, Scott F. Sieg, Michael M. Lederman

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40 Scopus citations


Background: Type I interferons play important roles in innate immune defense. In HIV infection, type I interferons may delay disease progression by inhibiting viral replication while at the same time accelerating disease progression by contributing to chronic immune activation. Methods: To investigate the effects of type I interferons in HIV-infection, we obtained cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples from 10 subjects who participated in AIDS Clinical Trials Group Study 5192, a trial investigating the activity of systemic administration of IFNα for twelve weeks to patients with untreated HIV infection. Using flow cytometry, we examined changes in cell cycle status and expression of activation antigens by circulating T cells and their maturation subsets before, during and after IFNα treatment. Results: The proportion of CD38+HLA-DR+CD8+ T cells increased from a mean of 11.7% at baseline to 24.1% after twelve weeks of interferon treatment (p = 0.006). These frequencies dropped to an average of 20.1% six weeks after the end of treatment. In contrast to CD8+ T cells, the frequencies of activated CD4+ T cells did not change with administration of type I interferon (mean percentage of CD38+DR+ cells = 2.62% at baseline and 2.17% after 12 weeks of interferon therapy). As plasma HIV levels fell with interferon therapy, this was correlated with a "paradoxical" increase in CD8+ T cell activation (p<0.001). Conclusion: Administration of type I interferon increased expression of the activation markers CD38 and HLA DR on CD8+ T cells but not on CD4+ T cells of HIV+ persons. These observations suggest that type I interferons may contribute to the high levels of CD8+ T cell activation that occur during HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere30306
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 24 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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