Increased levels of serum IgE and eosinophilia have been described in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, almost exclusively in patients with CD4+ cell count < 200 cells/microliters. IgE production is regulated by CD4+ T helper type 2 (Th-2) lymphocytes, producing interleukin 4 (IL-4) and expressing a ligand for the B cell-specific CD40 molecule (CD40 ligand [L]). A shift to a Th-2-like pattern of cytokine secretion has been postulated to be associated with progression toward acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). We studied three AIDS patients with very high levels of IgE and almost complete depletion of CD4+ lymphocytes, suggesting that IgE synthesis could not be driven by CD4+ cells. IgE in vitro synthesis by cells from such patients was, however, inhibited by anti-IL-4. We show that both CD8+ T cell lines and the majority of CD8+ T cells clones derived from these patients produce IL-4, IL-5, and IL-6 in half of the cases together with interferon gamma (IFN-gamma). 44% of CD8+ T cell clones expressed a CD40L, and the supernatants of the clones were capable of inducing IgE synthesis by normal B cells costimulated with anti-CD40. CD8+ T cells in these patients therefore functionally mimic Th-2 type cells and may account for hyper-IgE and eosinophilia in the absence of CD4+ cells. The presence of such CD8+ cells may also provide a source of IL-4 directing the development of predominant Th-2 responses in HIV infection.

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