Brain CD8+ and cytotoxic T lymphocytes are associated with, and may be specific for, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 encephalitis in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

Carol K. Petito, Jorge E. Torres-Muñoz, Fabiana Zielger, Micheline McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations


CD8+ T cells infiltrate brains with human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) encephalitis (HIVE) and related animal models; their perineuronal localization suggests cytotoxic T cell (CTL)-mediated neuronal killing. Because CTLs have not been identified in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) brains, the authors identified their cytotoxic granules in autopsy AIDS brains with HIVE and without HIVE (HIVnE) plus controls (7 to 13 cases/group) and determined gene expression profiles of CTL-associated genes in a separate series of cases. CD3+ and CD8+ T cells were significantly increased (P < .01) in perivascular spaces and inflammatory nodules in HIVE but were rare or absent in brain parenchyma in HIVnE and control brains. Eight HIVE brains contained granzyme B+ T cells and five contained perforin+ T cells. Their T-cell origin was confirmed by colocalization of CD8 and granzyme B in the same cell and the absence of CD56+ natural killer cells. The CTLs directly contacted with neurons, as the authors showed previously for CD3+ and CD8+ T cells. CTLs were rare or absent in HIV nonencephalitis (HIVnE) and controls. Granzyme B and H precursor gene expression was up-regulated and interleukin (IL)-12A precursor, a maturation factor for natural killer cells and CTLs, was down-regulated in HIVE versus HIVnE brain. This study demonstrates, for the first time, CTLs in HIVE and shows that parenchymal T cells and CTLs are sensitive biomarkers for HIVE. Consequently, CD8+ T cells and CTLs could mediate brain injury in HIVE and may represent an important biomarker for productive brain infection by HIV-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-283
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurovirology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006



  • CNS
  • HIV-1-associated dementia
  • Microarrays
  • Neurons
  • Perforin/granzyme B
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Clinical Neurology

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