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Keywords:

  • Lymphocyte;
  • Infectious mononucleosis;
  • Epstein-Barr virus infections;
  • Lymphocyte activation;
  • Cell death

Abstract

During acute infectious mononucleosis (AIM), large clones of Epstein-Barr virus-specific T lymphocytes are produced. To investigate the dynamics of clonal expansion, we measured cell proliferation during AIM using deuterated glucose to label DNA of dividing cells in vivo, analyzing cells according to CD4, CD8 and CD45 phenotype. The proportion of labeled CD8+CD45R0+ T lymphocytes was dramatically increased in AIM subjects compared to controls (mean 17.5 versus 2.8%/day; p<0.005), indicating very rapid proliferation. Labeling was also increased in CD4+CD45R0+ cells (7.1 versus 2.1%/day; p<0.01), but less so in CD45RA+ cells. Mathematical modeling, accounting for death of labeled cells and changing pool sizes, gave estimated proliferation rates in CD8+CD45R0+ cells of 11–130% of cells proliferating per day (mean 47%/day), equivalent to a doubling time of 1.5 days and an appearance rate in blood of about 5×109 cells/day (versus 7×107 cells/day in controls). Very rapid death rates were also observed amongst labeled cells (range 28–124, mean 57%/day),indicating very short survival times in the circulation. Thus, we have shown direct evidence for massive proliferation of CD8+CD45R0+ T lymphocytes in AIM and demonstrated that rapid cell division continues concurrently with greatly accelerated rates of cell disappearance.