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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Blood T-cell receptor diversity decreases during the course of HIV infection, but the potential for a diverse repertoire persists.


HIV infection results in a decrease in circulating CD4(+) T-cell and naive T-cell numbers. If such losses were associated with an erosion of T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire diversity in the peripheral T-cell pool, this might exacerbate the state of persistent immunodeficiency. Existing methods for the analysis of the TCR repertoire have demonstrated skewed distributions of TCR genes in HIV-infected subjects but cannot directly measure TCR diversity. Here we used AmpliCot, a quantitative assay based on DNA hybridization kinetics, to measure TCR diversity in a cross-sectional comparison of 19 HIV-infected persons to 18 HIV-uninfected controls. HIV-infected persons had a 10-fold decrease in total TCR repertoire diversity in 1.5 mL of blood compared with uninfected controls, with decreased diversity correlating most closely with a lower CD4(+) T-cell percentage. Nonetheless, the TCR repertoire diversity of sort-purified T-cell subpopulations in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected subjects was comparable. These observations suggest that the TCR repertoire diversity changes in whole blood during HIV disease progression are primarily the result of changes in the number and proportion of T-cell subpopulations and that most HIV-infected persons may retain a sufficiently diverse TCR repertoire to permit immune reconstitution with antiretroviral therapy alone, without thymopoiesis.

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