The CD4/CD8 ratio has long been used for the follow-up and monitor of many infectious diseases. Following the demonstration in 1983 that the CD4/CD8 ratio in the mouse is under genetic control, it was subsequently shown to be controlled by a major locus in man. To define the mode of inheritance of the CD4/CD8 ratio, we addressed the absolute number of CD4 and CD8 cells in a large unselected control sample and in members of 70 nuclear families. Pedigrees of nuclear families were analyzed by complex segregation analysis. Data was adjusted prior to this analysis to remove the effects of relevant covariates. The non-genetic-transmission and the multifactorial model could be easily rejected for both CD4 and CD8 cells. Among the different inheritance models, involving both a major gene and a multifactorial (MFT) component, a major autosomal recessive gene with a residual MFT effect controlling the high number of CD4 and a major autosomal recessive gene with a residual MFT effect controlling the high number of CD8 cells were the significantly best-fitting ones. Our findings have some practical implications. Among all, the knowledge of the CD4+ cell number and the proportion between CD4+ and CD8+ T cells could be a useful parameter in predicting human immunodeficiency virus infection outcome.
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