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Immunol Lett. 2001 Nov 1;79(1-2):85-91.

Analysis of the antigen specific T cell repertoires in HIV infection.

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Unit of Viral Immunology, Advanced Biotechnology Center and Immunology Laboratory, San Martino Hospital, Largo Benzi 10, 16132 Genoa, Italy.


In addition to HIV infection, several acquired immunodeficiencies lead to depletion of CD4 lymphocytes. These include immunosuppression resulting from high dose cancer chemotherapy or induced to control graft rejection, as well as in autoimmune diseases. The consequence of this depletion is an increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections or the inability to control primary infection in the case of HIV infection. In all instances a full or partial immunoreconstitution is desirable. In order to monitor the cellular immune state of a patient, rational information cannot be simply derived from phenotypic quantification of T lymphocytes. Instead loss or recovery of CD4 cells should be monitored by defining the specificity, the function and the clonality of the relevant cell population. Several methods are now available for this type of investigation. Here we describe an approach for the definition of clonal heterogeneity of antigen specific CD4 lymphocytes, a parameter that may help monitor loss or reconstitution in acquired immunodeficiencies. As examples of antigen specific CD4 T cell responses we focused on Pneumocystis carinii and on cytomegalovirus, as prototypic opportunistic pathogens which are responsible for severe infections in AIDS and in other immunosuppressive conditions which arise for instance following transplantation. Specific CD4 T cell lines were generated from normal controls and from seropositives in order to select antigen specific lymphocytes. The cells were subsequently analyzed for clonal diversity according to TCR BV gene family usage and according to TCR CDR3 size heterogeneity (spectratyping).

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