The etiology of primary antibody deficiencies is largely unknown. Beside rare monogenic forms, the majority of cases seem to have a more complex genetic basis. Whereas common variable immunodeficiency has been investigated in depth, there are only a few reports on milder primary antibody deficiencies such as idiopathic primary hypogammaglobulinemia and IgG subclass deficiency. We performed flow cytometric immunophenotyping in 33 patients with common variable immunodeficiency, 23 with idiopathic primary hypogammaglobulinemia and 21 with IgG subclass deficiency, as well as in 47 asymptomatic first-degree family members of patients and 101 unrelated healthy controls. All three groups of patients showed decreased memory B- and naïve T-cell subsets and decreased B-cell activating factor receptor expression. In contrast, circulating follicular helper T-cell frequency and expression of inducible T-cell co-stimulator and chemokine receptors were only significantly altered in patients with common variable immunodeficiency. Asymptomatic first-degree family members of patients demonstrated similar, albeit intermediate, alterations in naïve and memory B- and T-cell subsets. About 13% of asymptomatic relatives had an abnormal peripheral B-cell composition. Furthermore, asymptomatic relatives showed decreased levels of CD4+ recent thymic emigrants and increased central memory T cells. Serum IgG and IgM levels were also significantly lower in asymptomatic relatives than in healthy controls. We conclude that, in our cohort, the immunophenotypic landscape of primary antibody deficiencies comprises a spectrum, in which some alterations are shared between all primary antibody deficiencies whereas others are only associated with common variable immunodeficiency. Importantly, asymptomatic first-degree family members of patients were found to have an intermediate phenotype for peripheral B- and T-cell subsets.
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