We have studied immunological reconstitution following partially HLA-incompatible T cell depleted bone marrow transplantation, compared with reconstitution following HLA identical T cell depleted and HLA identical untreated bone marrow transplantation. We often observed an early emergence of E-rosette forming cells that were T3 negative and displayed strong natural killer activity in the first group of patients. This activity was shown with fresh leucocytes as well as interleukin 2 grown cells. The appearance of T3+ cells was delayed in this situation compared to that observed in HLA identical bone marrow transplantation. The delay in T3+ cell differentiation and in cellular immune function development probably explains why NK rosette forming cells are early detected within 3-4 months following HLA mismatched bone marrow transplantation. This NK subset is likely to be present at an early stage in all types of bone marrow transplantation, but is most commonly observed simultaneously with the T3+ cells in HLA identical untreated bone marrow transplantation. The respective role of T cell depletion and HLA incompatibility in this phenomenon are discussed while patients' conditioning, cyclosporine A and graft-versus-host disease have been shown to be irrelevant for the dissociation between NK E-rosette forming cells and T3+ subset onsets
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