Background: Emerging evidence indicates that CD4 and CD8 T cell recovery is differentially regulated during HIV infection. The hallmark of interleukin-2 (IL-2)-induced immune reconstitution is the selective outgrowth of CD4 through undefined mechanisms.
Objective: To delineate the effect of IL-2 on T cell homeostasis by analysing the differential impact of IL-2 immunotherapy on CD4 and CD8 dynamics.
Design: A randomized trial of 15 HIV-positive patients, eight receiving IL-2 immunotherapy with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and seven with HAART alone. Patients were followed for a 48-week period following three IL-2 cycles (overall, 10 weeks in duration).
Methods: CD4 and CD8 count, naive and memory immunophenotype, proliferation by Ki67, and CD8+CD38+ activated pattern were measured longitudinally by flow cytometry. Thymic output contribution to both CD4 and CD8 was evaluated by measurement of T cell receptor excision circles (TREC). Wilcoxon test was used to compare results.
Results: Compared with changes seen with HAART alone, IL-2 induced a more significant rise in CD4 than CD8 T cell count (P < 0.01), associated with a significant increase in Ki67-proliferating CD4 (P < 0.05), whereas no changes were seen in CD8+Ki67+ (P > 0.05). Furthermore, IL-2 administration was associated with CD4 TREC increase, whereas CD8 TREC remained stable (P > 0.05). Modifications in CD4 and CD8 T cells seen in patients taking only HAART were not associated with changes in CD4 and CD8 TREC.
Conclusions: By showing a differential impact on CD4 and CD8 homeostasis, the study suggests that IL-2-associated immune reconstitution results from protean interactions between T cell compartments; this has significant implications for the correct planning of immunotherapeutic strategies.