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Br J Haematol. 2010 Jan;148(2):274-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2009.07964.x. Epub 2009 Nov 4.

Patients with B cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia have an expanded population of CD4 perforin expressing T cells enriched for human cytomegalovirus specificity and an effector-memory phenotype.

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University of Westminster, London, UK.


We have previously shown an expansion of cytotoxic antigen-experienced CD4(+)T cells (CTLs) that express perforin (PF) in the peripheral blood of patients with B cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (B-CLL). Increased frequencies of CD4(+)CTLs have since been attributed to chronic viral infections, particularly, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). The present study examined the involvement of CD4(+)CTLs in responses to HCMV in B-CLL, and characterized their differentiation. We studied 36 HCMV seropositive (SP) and seronegative B-CLL patients and 20 healthy age-matched individuals. The HCMV reactivity of CD4(+)PF(+) and CD4(+)PF(-) cells was determined by interferon-gamma expression, and expression of CD45RA and CCR7 was assessed by flow cytometry. Fluorescence in-situ hybridization was used to measure relative telomere lengths. CD4(+)PF(+)T cell expansion in B-CLL patients and controls was strongly associated with HCMV seropositivity. CD4(+)PF(+) compared to CD4(+)PF(-) cells from SP B-CLL patients elicited major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-restricted responses to HCMV. CD4(+)PF(+)T cells from patients and controls were enriched with highly differentiated T-effector/memory (CCR7(-)) and revertant (CCR7(-)CD45RA(+)) phenotype. CD4(+)PF(+)T cells from B-CLL patients had shorter telomeres than CD4(+)PF(-)T cells, indicating an extensive replicative history. We conclude that persistent exposure to HCMV antigens in SP B-CLL patients leads to an expansion of the circulating MHC class II-restricted CD4(+)PF(+)T cell population with effector/memory phenotype.

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