Impaired CD4+ T cell responses, resulting in dysregulated T-helper 1 (Th1) effector and memory responses, are a common result of HIV-1 infection. These defects are often preceded by decreased expression and function of the α/β T cell receptor (TCR)-CD3 complex and of co-stimulatory molecules including CD28, resulting in altered T cell proliferation, cytokine secretion and cell survival. We have previously shown that HIV Tg rats have defective development of T cell effector function and generation of specific effector/memory T cell subsets. Here we identify abnormalities in activated HIV-1 Tg rat CD4+ T cells that include decreased pY505 dephosphorylation of Lck (required for Lck activation), decreased CD28 function, reduced expression of the anti-apoptotic molecule Bcl-xL, decreased secretion of the mitogenic lympokine interleukin-2 (IL-2) and increased activation induced apoptosis. These events likely lead to defects in antigen-specific signaling and may help explain the disruption of Th1 responses and the generation of specific effector/memory subsets in transgenic CD4+ T cells.
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