Expansion of a maternally derived monoclonal T cell population with CD3+/CD8+/T cell receptor-gamma/delta+ phenotype in a child with severe combined immunodeficiency

V Wahn, S Yokota, K L Meyer, J W Janssen, T E Hansen-Hagge, C Knobloch, S Koletzko, H Stein, W Friedrich, C R Bartram
Journal of Immunology 1991 November 1, 147 (9): 2934-41
The diagnosis of severe combined immunodeficiency complicated by chronic graft-vs-host disease affecting liver and skin in association with engraftment of maternal T cells was established in a 5-mo-old boy. Detailed immunologic and molecular genetic studies were performed because a unique T cell phenotype was identified on initial evaluation. A major proportion of the patient's peripheral T cells expressed a CD8+ and TCR-gamma/delta+ phenotype while CD4+ T cells were virtually absent. Southern blot analysis of cell subpopulations isolated by fluorescence activated cell sorting indicated that approximately 50% of CD8+/TCR-gamma/delta+ cells were clonally related. Immunophenotyping and -genotyping also identified a clonal TCR-gamma/delta+ cell population in the child's mother. Clonal identity of these T cell populations in mother and child was demonstrated by studies using a clonspecific TCR-delta probe generated by polymerase chain reaction as well DNA sequence analysis. HLA typing and DNA fingerprinting confirmed that the child had acquired this clone diaplacentally from the mother. According to immunohistology and DNA analysis the clone was found to be virtually absent in the liver tissue suggesting that this clonal T cell population plays a minor role, if any, in the pathogenesis of the liver abnormalities in the patient. In the mother the CD8+/TCR-gamma/delta+ clone spontaneously declined to a level around 1% of PBMC several months later and has remained at this level since. We conclude that 1) a clonal expansion of TCR-gamma/delta T cells, triggered by yet unknown stimuli, may occur in otherwise healthy individuals, 2) respective T cells are able to cross the placental barrier, and 3) in an microenvironment precluding rejection, i.e., in severely immunocompromised patients, these cells may persist and even represent a significant proportion of circulating T cells.

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