Does HIV kill cells?

Mark Mattson mpm at
Thu Mar 24 11:45:18 EST 1994

Ezekial (mic2mcb at wrote:
: Can anyone out there resolve an apparent contradiction in the courses I'm
: currently doing? The virology course says that retroviruses don't kill their
: host cells except when its HIV in which case it does. Immunology says HIV
: doesn't kill cells, cytotoxic T cells doing their proper job remove the
: infected cells? Which is correct or is the fact that we don't actually know?
: (btw anybody who want to rant at me about how HIV isn't the cause of aids
: should fells free because I think its intereting but can they argue the case
: instead of spouting dogma please?)

: Thanks in advance

: Matthew, mic2mcb at
: 	 mic2mcb at

With respect to HIV itself, I think it is clear that the virus can kill	neurons
in the CNS, apparently by stimulating an influx of calcium.  It is not clear
(to me, anyway) whether this phenomenon involves killing of uninfected 
neurons by extracellular holovirus or whether it's only infected cells that

In a more general sense, sure retroviruses can kill their host cells.  I can't
think of any specific viruses offhand, but some cause lysis of the host 
once they leave the lysogenic phase and begin replicating and assembling 
infectious particles.  The confusion may come from the fact that this can
take a VERY long time after the virus initially infects the cell and incor-
porates itself into the host genome.

Steven W. Barger, Ph.D.
Sanders-Brown Center on Aging

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