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Clin Exp Immunol. 1997 Feb;107(2):288-92.

Selective depletion of rectal lamina propria rather than lymphoid aggregate CD4 lymphocytes in HIV infection.

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Salt Lake VA Medical Centre and University of Utah School of Medicine, 84148, USA.


The goal of this study was to examine the changes in lymphocyte populations in rectal mucosa during HIV infection and to study their relationship to mucosal immunity and to systemic depletion of CD4 lymphocytes. Rectal biopsies from 58 HIV-infected subjects and eight controls were studied. Frozen rectal tissue sections were stained with antibodies to CD4, CD3, CD8, and markers for macrophages. HIV-infected subjects were divided into early stage (no opportunistic infections) and AIDS groups. There was profound depletion of rectal lamina propria CD4 lymphocytes (16% and 6% of normal content in early and AIDS groups, respectively). However, lymphoid aggregate CD4 lymphocytes were far less severely depleted (69% and 40% of normal content, respectively). The extent of lymphoid aggregate CD4 lymphocyte depletion generally parallelled the CD4 lymphocyte depletion in the blood. CD8 lymphocyte content in both the lamina propria and lymphoid aggregates usually were increased, particularly in early-stage patients. Macrophage contents were usually normal in the HIV-infected groups. We conclude that rectal lamina propria and lymphoid aggregates are distinct compartments differing markedly in their CD4 lymphocyte content during HIV infection. In light of this and an increased number of apoptotic cells which were noted in rectal lamina propria in HIV-infected subjects, we hypothesize that intestinal lamina propria could be a site of rapid CD4 lymphocyte destruction during HIV infection.

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