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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2001 Nov 20;17(17):1635-43.

Thymopoiesis in HIV-infected adults after highly active antiretroviral therapy.

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Department of Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The thymus of HIV-seropositive patients can enlarge as CD4+ T cell counts increase on highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). This may indicate development of new T cells or represent mature peripheral T cells recirculating to the thymus. To define the etiology of the enlargement, the thymuses of two HIV-infected individuals on HAART were biopsied. For more than 3 years before initiation of HAART, both patients (38 and 41 years of age) had documented CD4+ T lymphopenia. Peripheral blood samples were obtained to assess circulating CD4+ CD45RA+ CD62L+ T cells, which were thought to have recently developed in the thymus. Peripheral blood T cells from both patients and thymocytes from the second patient were also tested for levels of DNA episomes formed during T cell receptor gene rearrangement (T cell receptor rearrangement excision circles, TRECs). With HAART, peripheral blood CD4+ T cell counts increased from approximately 60/mm(3) to 552/mm(3) and 750/mm(3) for patients 1 and 2, respectively. Thymic biopsies from both patients showed normal thymus histology with active thymopoiesis. Percentages of peripheral blood CD4+ CD45RA+ CD62L+ T cells and quantitation of T cell TRECs also reflected active thymopoiesis in both patients. Thus, in these two HIV-seropositive adults examined after initiation of HAART, thymic enlargement represented active thymopoiesis. Thymopoiesis in adult AIDS patients may contribute to immune reconstitution even after prolonged CD4+ T lymphopenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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