To determine associations between circulating markers of immune activation, immune cell senescence, and inflammation with HIV-associated abnormalities of pulmonary function.
HIV infection is an independent risk factor for abnormal pulmonary function. Immune activation, immune senescence, and chronic inflammation are characteristics of chronic HIV infection that have been associated with other HIV-associated comorbidities and may be related to pulmonary disease in this population.
Participants from an HIV-infected cohort (n = 147) completed pulmonary function testing (PFT). Markers of T-cell activation and senescence were determined by flow cytometry, and plasma levels of interleukin-6, interleukin-8, and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured, as was telomere length of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Regression models adjusting for clinical risk factors were constructed to examine relationships between biomarkers and PFT outcomes.
Activated CD25(+) T cells and activated/senescent CD69(+)/CD57(+)/CD28(null) CD4(+) T cells, interleukin-6, and CRP were associated with PFT abnormalities. Shortening of PBMC telomere length correlated with airflow obstruction and diffusing impairment. Paradoxically, circulating senescent CD57(+)/CD28(null) CD8(+) T cells were associated with better PFT outcomes.
Circulating T cells expressing markers of activation and inflammatory cytokine levels are independently correlated with PFT abnormalities in HIV-infected persons. Overall telomere shortening was also associated with pulmonary dysfunction. The paradoxical association of senescent CD8(+) T cells and better PFT outcomes could suggest an unrecognized beneficial compensatory function of such cells or a redistribution of these cells from the circulation to local compartments. Further studies are needed to differentiate and characterize functional subsets of local pulmonary and circulating T-cell populations in HIV-associated pulmonary dysfunction.