Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program



First Thesis Advisor

Ronald C. Desrosiers, PhD


Heart Diseases, Monocytes, Dendritic Cells, Myocarditis, Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Simian immunodeficiency virus, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome


Ventricular dysfunction and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) develop among untreated HIV-infected people at much higher rates than among HIV-negative individuals, resulting in significant contributions to morbidity and mortality. Mechanisms underlying development of HIV-associated cardiomyopathy (HIVCM) are as yet poorly understood. The well-characterized simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) model of HIV infection provides a unique context for HIVCM pathogenesis studies in that SIV-infected rhesus monkeys develop myocardial lesions and contractile dysfunction similar to those described in HIV-infected people, suggesting a shared disease mechanism.

Lymphocytic myocarditis is a commonly reported finding in AIDS patients at autopsy and constitutes one of several conditions known to predispose to development of DCM, irrespective of HIV-infection status. As lymphocytic myocarditis also occurs with high frequency among SIV-infected rhesus monkeys, a retrospective analysis of rhesus monkey cardiac tissue collected at necropsy was performed to examine viral and cellular correlates of lymphocytic inflammation within myocardial tissue. One subpopulation of macrophages, which has been reported by other groups to be associated with an anti-inflammatory phenotype, was found to correlate inversely with lymphocytic infiltration and positively with numbers of virus infected cells, suggesting effects of an anti-inflammatory cytokine production profile.

In contrast, the detrimental effects of inflammatory cytokines on myocardial structure and function are well-recognized and HIV infection in general is characterized by chronic immune activation and inflammatory cytokine dysregulation. To further investigate a role for myocardial cytokine production in development of HIVCM, a prospective study was conducted in which SIV-infected rhesus monkeys and uninfected controls were treated with recurrent administration of inactivated Mycobacterium aviumcomplex bacteria (MAC). SIV-infected, MAC-treated animals rapidly developed significant ventricular systolic dysfunction and chamber dilatation not seen in control groups, suggesting an exaggerated myocardial sensitivity to exogenous antigenic stimulation. Concurrent treatment with the TNFα antagonist etanercept completely abrogated development of these changes, strongly implicating a causative role for TNFα in evolution of the contractile dysfunction and chamber remodeling.

Findings reported from the current studies suggest that characteristics of local myocardial macrophage populations and the myocardial tissue cytokine milieu may play more important roles than lymphocytic infiltration, cardiomyocyte damage, or viral proteins in the pathogenesis of HIVCM.



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