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Mol Med. 1999 December; 5(12): 812–819.
PMCID: PMC2230488

Critical role of nitric oxide during the apoptosis of peripheral blood leukocytes from patients with AIDS.


BACKGROUND: Highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART) increase the CD4(+) cell count, but complete normalization of this parameter has not been obtained in some patients. As oxidative stress plays an important role during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-associated dementia and lymphocyte apoptosis, we asked whether the nitric oxide (NO) pathway plays a role in the in vitro survival of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from HIV-1(+) patients and how it correlates with peripheral CD4(+) cell levels. MATERIALS AND METHODS: PBMC were isolated from patients with AIDS and assayed for apoptosis and proliferation in the presence of various chemicals, including agonists or antagonists of the NO pathway. Data were then compared with several in vivo parameters from the same patients. RESULTS: Apoptosis of PBMC in the presence of exogenous NO is significantly higher in patients with low peripheral CD4(+) cell levels than in patients with high CD4(+) cell numbers or seronegative individuals. In addition, endogenous NO inhibition rescues cells from apoptosis in AIDS patients with low circulating CD4(+) cell numbers and helps recovery of the T cell proliferative response. NO-mediated apoptosis does not require cGMP but involves peroxynitrite generation, PARP activation, and NAD(+) depletion. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, the data suggest the involvement of NO during the apoptosis and functional impairment of lymphocytes in patients with AIDS.

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