CD7 and CD57 are two cell surface molecules related to the differentiation or functional stages of CD4+ T cells. The CD4+CD7- T cells represent a minor subset of CD4+ cells in normal individuals and are considered to contain the normal counterpart of Sezary T cells; the CD4+CD57+ peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) are detectable in long- term renal allograft recipients. We compared the cell surface expression of these CD7 and CD57 markers on CD4+ T lymphocytes in peripheral blood and lymphoid organs from normal individuals and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients. Our results indicate that CD4+CD7- T cells in normal PBL do not express CD57 and were poorly responsive to anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody (MoAb), the activation being restored by addition of anti-CD28 MoAb. This CD4+CD7- cell subset is increased in peripheral blood during HIV infection, and its progressive expansion mirrors both the absolute and relative decrease of CD4+ T cells. The lack of CD7 expression is correlated with CD57 acquisition on CD4+ T cells because CD4+CD7-CD57+ cells represent a major component of the CD4+CD7- subset in HIV-infected patients. Our results suggest that the presence and the expansion of CD4+CD7-CD57+ T lymphocytes, which do not behave as previously defined helper subsets, may participate to the immune dysfunction observed during HIV infection.

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