Subnormal T-cell production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease has been described; however, it is not clear whether failure to synthesize IL-2 represents a selective or global defect in T-cell cytokine production. We evaluated the intracellular production of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and IL-2 in CD4+ cells that were stimulated with staphylococcal enterotoxin B or cytomegalovirus antigen. Strikingly, IFN-γ and IL-2 are differentially regulated in T cells of HIV-infected patients such that the numbers of CD69+ cells or IFN-γ-positive cells that make IL-2 are proportionally decreased in CD4+ T cells from HIV-infected patients. These findings demonstrate a selective defect in IL-2 production and suggest that enumeration of IFN-γ-producing cells in response to T-cell receptor stimulation, while providing some estimate of antigen-reactive cell frequency, may not reflect or predict “normal” T-cell function in HIV-infected patients
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