Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections lead to a progressive loss of CD4 T cells primarily via the process of apoptosis. With a limited number of infected cells and vastly disproportionate apoptosis in HIV infected patients, it is believed that apoptosis of uninfected bystander cells plays a significant role in this process. Disease progression in HIV infected individuals is highly variable suggesting that both host and viral factors may influence HIV mediated apoptosis. Amongst the viral factors, the role of Envelope (Env) glycoprotein in bystander apoptosis is well documented. Recent evidence on the variability in apoptosis induction by primary patient derived Envs underscores the role of Env glycoprotein in HIV disease. Amongst the host factors, the role of C-C Chemokine Receptor type 5 (CCR5), a coreceptor for HIV Env, is also becoming increasingly evident. Polymorphisms in the CCR5
gene and promoter affect CCR5 cell surface expression and correlate with both apoptosis and CD4 loss. Finally, chronic immune activation in HIV infections induces multiple defects in the immune system and has recently been shown to accelerate HIV Env mediated CD4 apoptosis. Consequently, those factors that affect CCR5 expression and/or immune activation in turn indirectly regulate HIV mediated apoptosis making this phenomenon both complex and multifactorial. This review explores the complex role of various host and viral factors in determining HIV mediated bystander apoptosis.
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