Which T-cell defects are found in common variable immunodeficiency (CVID)?

Updated: Oct 16, 2018
  • Author: C Lucy Park, MD; Chief Editor: Harumi Jyonouchi, MD  more...
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An overwhelming body of literature suggests that most patients with common variable immunodeficiency have intact B lymphocytes of immature phenotype. Common variable immunodeficiency B cells can secrete immunoglobulins (Ig), although often limited to IgM, if given the appropriate in vitro stimulation. Ig secretion has been induced from common variable immunodeficiency B cells using B-cell mitogens with soluble T-cell factors, monoclonal B-cell differentiation factors, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), anti-CD40 plus interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10. CD40 ligand (CD154) is expressed by activated CD4+ cells and is pivotal in inducing B-cell proliferation and differentiation.

Approximately 40% of patients with common variable immunodeficiency have low expression of CD40 ligand on activated T cells. At least 30% of patients with common variable immunodeficiency have lymphopenia due to the low number of CD4+ subsets. These patients also have decreased in vitro production of IL-2 when their peripheral blood mononuclear cells are stimulated in vitro. Decreased IL-2 production with stimuli via T-cell receptors is correlated with diminished CD40 ligand expression. Reduced expression of ICOS was reported in some families with autosomal recessive common variable immunodeficiency due to homozygous mutations in the ICOS gene. ICOS deficiency results in severe B-cell defect, which is caused by impaired T-cell help.

T cells in patients with common variable immunodeficiency have low frequency of antigen-specific precursor T cells following immunization with the neoantigens keyhole-limpet hemocyanin and dinitrophenol (DNP)-Ficoll. Many patients with common variable immunodeficiency have a defect in CD4+ T-cell priming to antigens, as measured by the number of circulating responsive CD4+ T cells following immunization. Many patients have a reduction in CD4+ CD45RA+ ("unprimed") T cells, suggesting activation of T cells.

Most patients with common variable immunodeficiency reportedly have increased production of interferon gamma by circulating CD8+ subsets, increased numbers of DR+/CD4+ T cells with up-regulated Fas expression, and an increased apoptosis. The abnormality appears to reside in CD4+ T cells and can be overcome by stimulating T cells with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) and ionomycin, an alternative T-cell activation pathway. This is consistent with defective signal transduction in T cells.

Increased endogenous cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels in T cells from patients with common variable immunodeficiency are associated with increased activation of protein kinase A type I (PKAI) in T cells and with decreased proliferative response to anti-CD3. A selective antagonist of PKAI induces a significant increase in anti-CD3-stimulated proliferative responses, particularly in CD4+ lymphocytes. Approximately 25-30% of patients with common variable immunodeficiency have increased numbers of CD8+ lymphocytes, normal or decreased CD4+, and reduced CD4/CD8 ratios (< 1). This increase in CD8+ T cells has been observed most often in patients with splenomegaly and bronchiectasis. These cells coexpress human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR and IL-2 receptors, suggesting in vivo activation.

Approximately 60% of patients with common variable immunodeficiency have diminished proliferative responses to T-cell receptor stimuli and decreased induction of gene expression for IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, and interferon gamma. T-cell receptors of patients with common variable immunodeficiency have no evident abnormality; T-cell receptor gene analyses indicate normal heterogeneity of gene rearrangements. TNF production from T cells and monocytes is increased in a subgroup of patients with granulomatous diseases. Standard tests to assess T-cell function, including in vitro proliferation in response to mitogens, antigens, and allogeneic cells, are subnormal in as many as 50% of patients with common variable immunodeficiency with a small subgroup of patients having very low responses. These results support the hypothesis that most patients with common variable immunodeficiency have antibody deficiency secondary to abnormalities in T-cell signaling and defective T-cell and B-cell interactions.

The recovery of Ig production (mostly IgG and IgM) transiently or permanently following human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been reported in patients with common variable immunodeficiency. These cases indicate that common variable immunodeficiency is associated with potentially reversible defects in immunoregulatory factors and intact B-cell systems.

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