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Eur J Immunol. 2007 Nov;37(11):3270-80.

Correlation between recent thymic emigrants and CD31+ (PECAM-1) CD4+ T cells in normal individuals during aging and in lymphopenic children.

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Division of Immunology/Hematology/BMT, University Children's Hospital, Zürich, Switzerland.


CD31(+)CD45RA(+)RO(-) lymphocytes contain high numbers of T cell receptor circle (TREC)-bearing T cells; however, the correlation between CD31(+)CD4(+) lymphocytes and TREC during aging and under lymphopenic conditions has not yet been sufficiently investigated. We analyzed TREC, telomere length and telomerase activity within sorted CD31(+) and CD31(-) CD4(+) lymphocytes in healthy individuals from birth to old age. Sorted CD31(+)CD45RA(+)RO(-) naive CD4(+) lymphocytes contained high TREC numbers, whereas CD31(+)CD45RA(-)RO(+) cells (comprising < or =5% of CD4(+) cells during aging) did not contain TREC. CD31(+) overall CD4(+) cells remained TREC rich despite an age-related tenfold reduction from neonatal (100 : 1000) to old age (10 : 1000). Besides a high TREC content, CD31(+)CD45RA(+)RO(-)CD4(+) cells exhibited significantly longer telomeres and higher telomerase activity than CD31(-)CD45RA(+)RO(-)CD4(+) cells, suggesting that CD31(+)CD45RA(+)RO(-)CD4(+) cells represent a distinct population of naive T cells with particularly low replicative history. To analyze the value of CD31 in lymphopenic conditions, we investigated six children after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Reemerging overall CD4(+) as well as naive CD45RA(+)RO(-)CD4(+) cells predominantly expressed CD31 and correlated well with the recurrence of TREC 5-12 months after HSCT. Irrespective of limitations in the elderly, CD31 is an appropriate marker to monitor TREC-rich lymphocytes essentially in lymphopenic children after HSCT.

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