We were interested in the question of whether the congenital lack of B cells actually had any influence on the development of the T cell compartment in patients with agammaglobulinaemia. Sixteen patients with X-linked agammaglobulinaemia (XLA) due to mutations in Btk, nine patients affected by common variable immune deficiency (CVID) with <2% of peripheral B cells and 20 healthy volunteers were enrolled. The T cell phenotype was determined with FACSCalibur and CellQuest Pro software. Mann-Whitney two-tailed analysis was used for statistical analysis. The CD4 T cell memory compartment was reduced in patients with XLA of all ages. This T cell subset encompasses both CD4(+)CD45RO(+) and CD4(+)CD45RO(+)CXCR5(+) cells and both subsets were decreased significantly when compared to healthy controls: P = 0·001 and P < 0·0001, respectively. This observation was confirmed in patients with CVID who had <2% B cells, suggesting that not the lack of Bruton's tyrosine kinase but the lack of B cells is most probably the cause of the impaired CD4 T cell maturation. We postulate that this defect is a correlate of the observed paucity of germinal centres in XLA. Our results support the importance of the interplay between B and T cells in the germinal centre for the activation of CD4 T cells in humans.
© 2011 The Authors. Clinical and Experimental Immunology © 2011 British Society for Immunology.