Faculty Articles

Sympathoimmune Anomalies Underlying the Response to Stressful Challenge in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Spectrum Disease

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Psychosomatic Medicine





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Objective: This study examined immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular reactivity during stressful behavioral challenge in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seropositive (HIV+) and seronegative (HIV-) men and women and assessed whether immunocellular reactivity was differentially associated with concomitant alterations in sympathetic response.

Methods: The 133 HIV+ [84 asymptomatic, 49 symptomatic] and 92 HIV- subjects completed a speech stress reactivity protocol.

Results: Immunocellular reactivity to the speech stressor did not differ among asymptomatic and symptomatic HIV+ groups; however, relative to seronegatives, reactivity differences were present. Specifically, HIV+ subjects exhibited greater increases in total number of T cells, as well as in cytotoxic/suppressor T cells, activated T cells, and activated cytotoxic/suppressor T cells, and less increase in natural killer (NK) cell numbers. In addition, less stress-induced increase in NK cell cytotoxicity was observed along with greater suppression of the lymphoproliferative response to mitogen stimulation in the HIV+ group. Although no group differences in catecholamine reactivity were observed, the association of immunoreactivity with catecholamine responsiveness differed between serostatus groups. Specifically, the HIV+ subjects compared with HIV- subjects displayed greater lymphocytosis per unit change in norepinephrine; whereas NK cell reactivity was positively related to epinephrine responsiveness, but only in the HIV- group. These findings were present even after controlling for age and body mass, as well as other potential influences on immunocellular migration, such as cortisol levels and prevailing cardiac output.

Conclusion: Early in HIV spectrum disease, functional abnormalities in the stress-induced migratory ability of specific immunocellular subsets are present that may reflect an underlying pathophysiological alteration in sympathoimmune communication.

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