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Mucosal Immunol. 2012 Mar;5(2):121-8. doi: 10.1038/mi.2011.56. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

Foreskin T-cell subsets differ substantially from blood with respect to HIV co-receptor expression, inflammatory profile, and memory status.

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  • 1Clinical Science Division, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


The foreskin is the main site of heterosexual human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition in uncircumcised men, but functional data regarding T-cell subsets present at this site are lacking. Foreskin tissue and blood were obtained from Ugandan men undergoing elective adult circumcision. Tissue was treated by mechanical and enzymatic digestion followed by T-cell subset identification and assessment of cytokine production using flow cytometry. Foreskin CD4(+) T cells were predominantly an effector memory phenotype, and compared with blood they displayed a higher frequency of CCR5 expression (42.0% vs. 9.9%) and interleukin-17 production. There was no difference in T-regulatory cell frequency, but interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α production were increased in foreskin CD8(+) T cells. These novel techniques demonstrate that the foreskin represents a proinflammatory milieu that is enriched for HIV-susceptible T-cell subsets. Further characterization of foreskin T-cell subsets may help to define the correlates of HIV susceptibility in the foreskin.

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