We studied the innate and adaptive immune system of rhesus macaques infected with the virulent simian immunodeficiency virus isolate SIVmac251 by evaluating natural killer (NK) cell activity, cytokine levels in plasma, humoral and virological parameters, and changes in the activation markers CD25 (interleukin 2R [IL-2R] α chain), CD69 (early activation marker), and CD154 (CD40 ligand) in lymphoid cells. We found that infection with SIVmac251 induced the sequential production of interferon-α/β (IFN-α/β), IL-18, and IL-12. IFN-γ, IL-4, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor were undetected in plasma by the assays used. NK cell activity peaked at 1 to 2 weeks postinfection and paralleled changes in viral loads. Maximum expression of CD69 on CD3-CD16+ lymphocytes correlated with NK cytotoxicity during this period. CD25 expression, which is associated with proliferation, was static or slightly down-regulated in CD4+ T cells from both peripheral blood (PB) and lymph nodes (LN). CD69, which is normally present in LN CD4+ T cells and absent in peripheral blood leukocyte (PBL) CD4+ T cells, was down-regulated in LN CD4+ T cells and up-regulated in PBL CD4+ T cells immediately after infection. CD8+ T cells increased CD69 but not CD25 expression, indicating the activation of this cellular subset in PB and LN. Finally, CD154 was transiently up-regulated in PBL CD4+ T cells but not in LN CD4+ T cells. Levels of antibodies to SIV Gag and Env did not correlate with the level of activation of CD154, a critical costimulatory molecule for T-cell-dependent immunity. In summary, we present the first documented evidence that the innate immune system of rhesus macaques recognizes SIV infection by sequential production of proinflammatory cytokines and transient activation of NK cytotoxic activity. Additionally, pathogenic SIV induces drastic changes in the level of activation markers on T cells from different anatomic compartments. These changes involve activation in the absence of proliferation, indicating that activation-induced cell death may cause some of the reported increase in lymphocyte turnover during SIV infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science