Assessment of thymic activity in human immunodeficiency virus-negative and -positive adolescents by real-time PCR quantitation of T-cell receptor rearrangement excision circles

Academic Article


  • Circular DNA molecules known as T-cell receptor rearrangement excision circles (TREC) arise during T-cell development and are present in cells that have recently emigrated from the thymus. In cross-sectional studies, the number of peripheral blood lymphocytes bearing TREC decreases with age, consistent with an anatomically demonstrated loss of thymic epithelial tissue. TREC numbers increase following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and during therapy for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Quantitation of TREC has therefore been proposed as a parameter of thymic activity. In this study, we used real-time PCR to quantify TREC in peripheral blood samples obtained longitudinally from HIV-seronegative adolescents. TREC values in peripheral blood T cells were very stable throughout adolescence, once thought to be a time of rapid involution of the thymus. In addition, in a cross-sectional analysis, we examined TREC values in a cohort of HIV-positive adolescents and found evidence of ongoing thymopoiesis in perinatally infected individuals, despite lifelong infection. These data demonstrate the utility of TREC assessment in adolescents and that HIV infection does not uniformly result in accelerated thymic involution in childhood.
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    Author List

  • Pham T; Belzer M; Church JA; Kitchen C; Wilson CM; Douglas SD; Geng Y; Silva M; Mitchell RM; Krogstad P
  • Start Page

  • 323
  • End Page

  • 328
  • Volume

  • 10
  • Issue

  • 2