The objective of this study was to functionally assess gamma/delta (γδ) T cells following pathogenic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection of humans and nonpathogenic simian immunodeficiency virus (SIY) infection of sooty mangabeys. γδ T cells were obtained from peripheral blood samples from patients and sooty mangabeys that exhibited either a CD4-healthy (>200 CD4+ T cells/μl blood) or CD4-low (<200 CD4 cells/μl blood) phenotype. Cytokine flow cytometry was utilized to assess production of Th1 cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha and gamma interferon following ex vivo stimulation with either phorbol myristate acetate/ionomycin or the Vδ2 γδ T-cell receptor agonist isopentenyl pyrophosphate. Sooty mangabeys were observed to have higher percentages of γδ T cells in their peripheral blood than humans did. Following stimulation, γδ T cells from SIV-positive (SIV +) mangabeys maintained or increased their ability to express the Th1 cytokines regardless of CD4+ T-cell levels. In contrast, HIV-positive (HIV+) patients exhibited a decreased percentage of γδ T cells expressing Th1 cytokines following stimulation. This dysfunction is primarily within the Vδ2+ γδ T-cell subset which incurred both a decreased overall level in the blood and a reduced Th1 cytokine production. Patients treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy exhibited a partial restoration in their γδ T-cell Th1 cytokine response that was intermediate between the responses of the uninfected and HIV+ patients. The SIV+ sooty mangabey natural hosts, which do not proceed to clinical AIDS, provide evidence that γδ T-cell dysfunction occurs in HIV+ patients and may contribute to HIV disease progression.
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