Original Research

B-cell and T-cell activation in South African HIV-1-positive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients

Brian T. Flepisi, Patrick Bouic, Gerhard Sissolak, Bernd Rosenkranz
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 19, No 1 | a809 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v19i1.809 | © 2018 Brian T. Flepisi, Patrick Bouic, Gerhard Sissolak, Bernd Rosenkranz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 October 2017 | Published: 07 November 2018

About the author(s)

Brian T. Flepisi, Department of Medical Biosciences, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Patrick Bouic, Department of Medical Microbiology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Gerhard Sissolak, Department of Medicine, Division of Clinical Haematology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Bernd Rosenkranz, Department of Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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Background: Altered immune mechanisms play a critical role in the pathogenesis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). HIV-1 (HIV) infection is associated with a state of excessive T-cell activation, which can lead to increased T-cell turnover and lymph node fibrosis.

Objectives: This study aimed to determine the serum levels of circulating B-cell activation markers, and the expression of T-cell activation and regulatory markers in HIV-positive NHL patients.

Method: The serum levels of circulating soluble(s) sCD20, sCD23, sCD27, sCD30 and sCD44 molecules, all of which are biomarkers of B-cell activation, were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), while biomarkers of T-cell activation (CD8+CD38+) and regulation (FoxP3) were determined by flow cytometry in 141 subjects who were divided into five groups: Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naïve HIV-positive patients; ART-treated HIV-positive patients; HIV-negative NHL patients; HIV-positive NHL patients on ART; and healthy controls.

Results: HIV-positive NHL patients had significantly higher serum levels of sCD20, sCD23, sCD30 and sCD44 than HIV-negative NHL patients, while all five biomarkers were significantly elevated in HIV-positive NHL patients when compared with ART-treated HIV-positive patients. HIV-positive NHL patients had higher CD8+CD38+ and lower FoxP3 expression than HIV-negative NHL and ART-treated HIV-positive patients.

Conclusion: B-cell activation is increased in HIV-positive NHL patients and is associated with reduced regulatory T-cell populations and increased CD8+ T-cell activation.


HIV-1 infection; non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; B-cell activation; T-cell activation


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