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Blood. 1996 Dec 15;88(12):4568-78.

Loss of primitive hematopoietic progenitors in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection.

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INSERM U 362, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.


A number of hematologic abnormalities, including cytopenias, have been observed in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. To elucidate their mechanisms, primitive cells from bone marrow aspirates of 21 patients with HIV-1 infection were quantitated by flow cytometry. The mean percentage of CD34+ cells is not significantly altered in HIV-1-infected patients in comparison with HIV-1-seronegative controls. In contrast, two- and three-color immunofluorescence analysis showed that in all HIV-1 samples, most CD34+ cells coexpressed the CD38 antigen. The proportion of HIV-1-derived CD34+ cells that did not express the CD38 antigen was significantly lower (HIV-1+: mean, 1.73%; controls: mean, 14%; P < .0005) than in controls. Moreover, of Thy-1+ cells, the proportion of CD34+ cells was twofold lower in HIV-1-infected patients (HIV-1+: mean, 12%; controls, 25%, P < .0005), which suggests that phenotypically primitive cells are depleted in HIV-1 infection. In vitro functional analysis in long-term cultures of sorted CD34+ cells from seven HIV-1 patients showed that CD34+ cells from HIV-1 patients generated much fewer colonies both in the nonadherent and adherent layers than CD34+ cells from controls after 5 weeks of culture (10-fold and four-fold less, respectively). Precise long-term culture initiating cell (LTC-IC) frequency in the CD34+ cell population was determined in three patients by limiting dilution and was markedly decreased in comparison to that of normal controls (from twofold to > sevenfold decreased). To determine if primitive cells were infected by HIV-1, both methylcellulose colonies generated from long-term culture of CD34+ cells and various CD34+ cell fractions purified by flow cytometry were evaluated for the presence of HIV-1 by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Progeny from long-term culture was HIV-1-negative in three samples. In addition, using a sensitive PCR technique, the HIV-1 genome could not be detected in CD34+, CD34+/CD38-, and CD34+/CD4+ cells. These data show that hematologic disorders in HIV disease may be the consequence of a deficit of primitive cells. However, direct infection of these cells by HIV-1 does not seem to be responsible for this defect.

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