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AIDS. 2001 May 25;15(8):957-64.

Loss of memory (CD27) B lymphocytes in HIV-1 infection.

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Microbiology and Tumorbiology Center, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.



The mechanisms of B-cell dysfunction during HIV-1 infection, including polyclonal B-cell activation, are poorly understood. We studied the phenotype and the functionality of peripheral memory B cells in HIV-1-infected subjects.


The phenotype of B cells and the responsiveness to T-cell dependent activation in vitro were analysed in 36 HIV-1-infected and 34 healthy subjects.


Phenotyping of B and T cells was performed by FACS. IgG content was measured in plasma (by nephelometry) and cultures (by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) of B lymphocytes activated through CD40 or CD27 ligation. Expression of Fas and Fas ligand was performed by FACS on B-cell subpopulations from five HIV-1-infected and four uninfected subjects.


The peripheral memory (CD27) B cells were significantly reduced in HIV-1-infected subjects. The amount of memory B cells was low in both drug-naive subjects and patients undergoing antiretroviral therapy. Ex vivo expression of CD70 (CD27 ligand) on T cells was significantly higher in HIV-1-infected subjects and inversely correlated with the frequency of memory B cells. In spite of the reduced number of memory B cells, in vitro spontaneous and activation-induced IgG secretion was higher in HIV-1-infected patients than in uninfected controls. The hyperactivation status of B lymphocytes in HIV-1-infected patients was further confirmed by the finding of upregulation of Fas and FasL expression on memory B cells.


Memory B lymphocytes are depleted from peripheral blood in HIV-1-infected subjects. Our ex vivo findings suggest that persistent T-cell activation may contribute to loss of memory B cells through upregulation of Fas/FasL on these cells and terminal differentiation into plasma cells.

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