Aims: To determine the morphology, immunophenotype and bcl-2 protein status of intraepithelial lymphocytes in HIV-positive lymphoepithelial lesions.
Methods and results: Seventeen cases (from adults and children) of HIV-associated parotid and lung lymphoid lesions were examined. In addition, three lymphoepithelial cysts from HIV-negative patients were studied in parallel. Immunohistochemistry was performed on paraffin embedded tissue with the following antibodies: CD20, CD79a, CD3, CD4, CD8, bcl-2, CAM5.2, AE1/3, MIB1, kappa/lambda light chains and EBV-LMP-1. Heavy chain rearrangement was sought by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in four of the cases. The lymphocytes participating in lymphoepithelial lesions of HIV-positive patients had the morphology of centrocyte-like cells with occasional cells resembling centroblasts. The majority of these cells were of B-cell lineage, but occasional intraepithelial T-cells (CD8 positive, CD4 negative) were also present. T-cells also formed a significant component of the infiltrative lymphoid cells outside the lymphoepithelial lesions. These were mainly CD8 positive, but very occasional CD4-positive T-cells were also noted. None of the cases showed light chain restriction and the four cases did not demonstrate heavy chain rearrangement by molecular biology. The interesting finding was the absence of bcl-2 expression by the intraepithelial lymphocytes. In contrast, the intraepithelial lymphocytes seen in the non-HIV setting were strongly bcl-2 positive. The majority of these were B-cells, and very occasional CD8 and CD4 positive T-cells formed the intraepithelial population.
Conclusion: It is postulated that this finding is due to the HIV causing down-regulation of bcl-2 protein.