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Cytometry. 2001 Aug 15;46(4):233-7.

Different rates of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell proliferation in interleukin-2-treated human immunodeficiency virus-positive subjects.

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Division of Microbiology, Immunology and Virology, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, IRCCS, 33081 Aviano, Italy.



Interleukin-2 (IL-2) has been used successfully to increase CD4 cell counts in patients who are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive. The mechanisms involved in this phenomenon are unknown. We hypothesized that a differential proliferation rate of CD4+ compared with CD8+ lymphocytes could be related to the increase of CD4 counts and of CD4/CD8 ratios that occur in HIV+ patients during IL-2 treatment.


We enrolled in our study 14 HIV+ patients treated with IL-2 or with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) during a 96-week observation period. Using flow cytometry, we measured longitudinally the expression of the Ki67 antigen in peripheral blood CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte subsets.


Compared with HAART alone, IL-2 produced a rapid increase of Ki67+ proliferating CD4 cells and a concomitant increase of the CD4/CD8 ratios, whereas the corresponding CD8 proliferation increased slightly. On the contrary, HAART alone was effective in suppressing equally both CD4 and CD8 proliferation.


Our results suggest a selective activity of IL-2 on CD4 T-cell proliferation; on the contrary, CD8-specific proliferation is affected minimally during treatment. This information may offer the potential to plan correctly immune activating regimens.

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