HIV-induced AIDS may be mediated by the activation of immunosuppressive CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells (Treg cells). Treg cells have been shown to regulate CD4+ and CD8+ immune responses to HIV and FIV antigens in vitro. We tested the hypothesis that Treg cells become infected and activated during the acute infection with FIV leading to the suppression of CD4+ T helper cell responses. Cats were experimentally infected with FIV-NCSU1 and blood and lymph node cells were collected at weekly intervals following inoculation. Real-time RT-PCR was used to determine plasma viremia and the relative expression of FIV, FoxP3, TGF-β, and GAPDH mRNA copies in CD4+CD25+ and CD4+CD25- T cell subsets. Flow cytometry was used to assess the absolute numbers of each cell type and the expression of surface TGF-β and intracellular FoxP3 in CD4+CD25+ and CD4+CD25- T cells at each time-point. Treg suppression of IL-2 production in CD4+ T helper cells was assessed by ELISPOT assays. Our results showed that peak viremia occurred at 2 weeks post infection and correlated with maximal infectivity in CD4+CD25+ T cell populations. FIV-gag-mRNA levels were higher in CD4+CD25+ T cells than CD4+CD25- T cells throughout the acute phase of infection. Induction of FoxP3 and TGF-β indicated activation of Treg cells during the acute stage infection, which was confirmed by Treg cell suppression of IL-2 production by CD4+ Th cells in an ELISPOT assay. Our findings support the hypothesis that early activation of Treg immunosuppressor function may limit an effective anti-FIV response, contributing to the establishment of chronic infection and the immunodeficiency caused by this virus. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Mexas, A. M., Fogle, J. E., Tompkins, W. A., & Tompkins, M. B. (2008). CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells are infected and activated during acute FIV infection. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 126(3–4), 263–272. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vetimm.2008.08.003