The loss of CD4 lymphocytes in HIV disease associates with opportunistic infections. Since diverse CD4 T cell clones respond to an opportunistic pathogen, we asked whether CD4 depletion deletes selected clones in the repertoire (vertical depletion) or it affects all clones by reducing the cell number in each progeny without affecting the overall number of clones (horizontal depletion). Understanding this point may help explain the mode of CD4 depletion and the mode of immunoreconstitution after therapy. Therefore we examined the CD4 T cell repertoire specific for Pneumocystis carinii, a relevant opportunistic pathogen in AIDS, in HIV-infected, asymptomatic individuals. We identified two patients of 36 asymptomatics for lack of proliferation to P. carinii, suggesting selective depletion of specific CD4 cells. To investigate clonal heterogeneity of P. carinii-responsive CD4 lymphocytes, specific CD4 T cell lines were generated and studied by TCR BV gene family usage and CDR3 length analysis (spectratyping). Clonal heterogeneity was similar in antigen-specific CD4 lines generated from P. carinii non-responding HIV seropositives and from controls. Thus, despite undetectable response to the pathogen, residual specific cells probably prevent overt infection and, when expanded in vitro, exhibit a clonal diversity similar to normal controls. These findings suggest a horizontal, rather than vertical, depletion in these asymptomatic patients.
- CD4 cells
- Opportunistic infections
- Pneumocystis carinii
- T cell receptor spectratyping
ASJC Scopus subject areas