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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Aug 6;99(16):10712-7. Epub 2002 Jul 29.

Increased peripheral expansion of naive CD4+ T cells in vivo after IL-2 treatment of patients with HIV infection.

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Science Applications International Corporation-Frederick, Inc., Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


Intermittent interleukin-2 (IL-2) therapy has been shown to increase the number of CD4+ T cells, preferentially cells with a naive phenotype, in patients with HIV infection. For this report we investigated the mechanism underlying this expansion by studying the relative roles of peripheral expansion and thymic output. In a cohort of six patients receiving IL-2 over a period of 1 year, the mean number of naive CD4+ T cells increased from 139 to 387 cells per microl while levels of T cell receptor rearrangement excision circles (TRECs) declined from 47,946 to 26,510 copies per 10(6) naive T cells, thus making it unlikely that the CD4+ T cell count increases were secondary to increase in thymic output. To examine directly the impact of IL-2 on peripheral expansion, peripheral blood mature, naive CD4+ T cells were labeled ex vivo with 5-bromodeoxyuridine as well as stained directly for Ki67. These studies revealed a 7-fold increase in the percentage of 5-bromodeoxyuridine-positive cells and a 20-40-fold increase in Ki67 staining in the naive CD4+ T cell pool in the setting of IL-2 administration. This degree of increase in mature CD4+ T cell turnover induced by IL-2 does not compromise the future replicative potential of these cells, because longitudinal measurements of telomere length went from 6,981 to 7,153 bp after 1 year of IL-2 therapy. These data strongly suggest that much of the increase in CD4+ cells associated with IL-2 treatment is caused by peripheral expansion of existing naive CD4+ T cells rather than increased thymic output and that these increases occur without compromising the potential of these cells for further cell division.

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