Infection by HIV-1 has been associated with perturbations in the TCR V beta repertoire, suggesting the involvement of a superantigen. Among the hallmarks of superantigens is the capacity to delete T cells bearing specific TCR V beta families in the developing thymus. To verify the presence of a superantigen in HIV-1, we analyzed the SCID-hu Thy/Liv TCR V beta repertoire within CD4+CD8+, CD4+CD8-, or CD4-CD8+ thymocytes subsets by flow cytometry using a panel of Abs recognizing about 60% of the TCR repertoire following injection of SEB or infection by two different HIV-1 isolates. Seven days following SEB injection, thymocyte subsets bearing TCR V beta 3, V beta 12, V beta 17, and V beta 20, but not V beta 5 or V beta 8 , were deleted relative to mock-injected mice. In contrast, no changes were observed in the TCR V beta repertoire in CD4+CD8+, CD4+CD8-, or CD4-CD8+ thymocyte subsets after infection with HIV-1. The T cell depletion caused by HIV-1 infection is most likely not mediated by an HIV-encoded superantigen.

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