When HIV Meets the Immune System: Network Theory, Alloimmunity, Autoimmunity, and AIDS

  • Geoffrey W. Hoffmann
  • Michael D. Grant
Part of the Lecture Notes in Biomathematics book series (LNBM, volume 83)


It is suggested that the following facts are relevant to AIDS pathogenesis. Firstly, there is complementarity of the AIDS virus envelope glycoprotein gpl20 to a molecule on helper T cells called the CD4 protein, and there is also complementarity of CD4 to certain molecules that are important in the immune system, namely class IIMHC. In this respect, gp120 is similar to class II MHC, and the anti-viral immune response may include a component that is directed against class II MHC or V regions resembling class II MHC. Secondly, immunization with foreign lymphocytes can lead to the production of antibodies with V regions that resemble MHC proteins. Since infection with HIV often occurs coincidentally with exposure to allogeneic lymphocytes, infected individuals are likely to make such MHC mimicking antibodies. These facts lead to the idea that AIDS is an autoimmune disease that can be triggered by a combination of HIV and allogeneic cells. These two stimuli would produce mutually complementary “MHC-image” and anti-(MHC image) immune responses that could synergize with each other and destabilize the system. We discuss some recent experimental results on autoantibodies found in AIDS patients and in persons at risk for AIDS that support these ideas.

The theory suggests that vaccines consisting of gp120 or some related substances may cause AIDS in people belonging to high risk groups. It also leads to new experimentally testable predictions and ideas for preventing the disease. For example, we may be able to prevent AIDS using injections of the viral envelope glycoprotein (gp120 or gp160) together with anti-gp120 or anti-gp160.

Further progress may come from a more detailed understanding of the immune system network. A mathematical model of the symmetrical network theory is reviewed briefly.


Major Histocompatibility Complex Versus Region Major Histocompatibility Complex Molecule Stable Steady State Human Immune Deficiency Virus 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey W. Hoffmann
    • 1
  • Michael D. Grant
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Microbiology and PhysicsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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