Rectal mucosal biopsy specimens from 75 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-seropositive and 16 HIV-seronegative subjects were examined. The histopathologic changes were correlated with immunoperoxidase staining for UCHL-1 and HIV core protein p24, quantitative p24 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) assay in homogenized rectal tissue and serum, and a modified Walter Reed clinical stage. Four phases were seen in the HIV-infected subjects: (1) early phase, in Walter Reed stage 1-2 subjects, with nearly normal histology and low p24; (2) inflammatory phase, typically in Walter Reed stage 3-4 subjects, with a superficial lamina propria infiltrate of lymphocytes, plasma cells, and eosinophils with degranulation, abundant UCHL-1 staining, and maximal p24 by both immunoperoxidase staining and ELISA; (3) transitional phase, in many Walter Reed 5 and some Walter Reed 6 subjects, with normal lymphocyte population density but with subtle inflammatory changes; and (4) lymphoid depletion phase, mainly in Walter Reed stage 6 subjects, with decreased lymphocytes but often with endothelial cell activation and apoptosis. These phases presumably result from effective HIV suppression by a relatively intact immune system, followed by maximal HIV infection and lymphocyte activation, then progressive lymphocyte depletion. The inflammation correlated with the presence and amount of HIV in rectal tissue determined by immunohistochemistry and ELISA and was maximal before overt immunodeficiency developed. Intestinal mucosa could be a preferred site of HIV proliferation and T-cell destruction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas