Antibody-producing B cells begin to malfunction early after infection with HIV, for reasons that are poorly understood. In August 14 on-line Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Susan Moir and colleagues from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, US show that HIV viremia induces the appearance of a subset of B cells whose function is impaired and which may be responsible for the hypergammaglobulinemia associated with HIV disease.

Moir et al. studied the function of B cells from HIV patients before and after reduction of viremia by antiretroviral therapy. They found that B cells taken from patients with high levels of plasma viremia had dysfunctional proliferative responses to various stimuli. In addition, viremia was associated with the appearance of a subpopulation of B cells that expressed reduced levels of CD21 (a complement and HIV ligand) and increased secretion of immunoglobulins (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA...

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