Follicle lysis is a characteristic alteration of B cell follicles described recently in lymph node biopsies from homosexual men. It consists of disruption of germinal centers by aggregates of small mature lymphocytes variably associated with erythrocyte extravasation. We studied the immunohistology of follicle lysis identified in lymph node biopsies from 11 homosexual men. The results indicate that follicle lysis has two principal immunohistologic features: (1) intrafollicular aggregates of small lymphocytes predominantly of polytypic mantle B cell phenotype (T015+/Leu-8+/mu+/delta+/k+ or lambda+), and (2) disruption of the normal, unified follicular meshwork of R4/23+ dendritic reticulum cells by these B cell aggregates. These structural alterations may affect the functional integrity of the germinal center as it pertains to the abnormal B cell effector function and the increased prevalence of B cell lymphoma recently documented in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and related disorders. Because dendritic reticulum cells weakly express the Leu-3 (T4) antigen, which is known to be an essential component of the receptor for human T- lymphotropic virus type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus (HTLV- III/LAV) retrovirus infection, it is possible that retroviral infection of dendritic reticulum cells may play a role in the pathogenesis of follicle lysis.

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