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Blood. 1986 Feb;67(2):279-84.

Defective interleukin-2 production and responsiveness by T cells in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia of B cell variety.


The present studies were designed to investigate the mechanism(s) of the defective T cell proliferative response to various stimuli in patients with B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia B-CLL. In 14 patients with advanced B-CLL (stage III or IV) we found the T cell response in the autologous (auto) and allogeneic (allo) mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR) to be 35.7% and 30% of the controls, respectively. Proliferation in the MLR depends upon the production of and response to interleukin 2 (IL 2), a T cell growth factor. IL 2 production in eight B-CLL patients was 22% of the control. The response to IL 2 was measured by the increase in the T cell proliferation in the MLR with the addition of IL 2. T cell proliferation in both the auto and allo MLR of CLL patients was significantly lower than in the controls after the addition of IL 2. The proliferative response of normal T cells to stimulation by CLL B cells was 50% of the control. This latter response was increased to control levels when cultures were supplemented with exogenous IL 2, suggesting that CLL B cells could stimulate IL 2 receptor generation in normal T cells in an allo MLR, but not IL 2 production. The presence of IL 2 receptors on activated T cells was directly determined using anti-Tac, a monoclonal antibody with specificity for the IL 2 receptor. Of the mitogen- or MLR-activated T cells in CLL patients, 6% and 10%, respectively, expressed Tac antigen, whereas identically stimulated control T cells were 60% and 47% Tac+, respectively. Our findings suggest that T cells in B-CLL are defective in their recognition of self or foreign major histocompatibility antigens as demonstrated by their impaired responsiveness in the MLR. Thus, these cells are unable to produce IL 2 or generate IL 2 receptors.

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