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Revertant T lymphocytes in a patient with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome: analysis of function and distribution in lymphoid organs.

ABSTRACT

The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a rare genetic disease characterized by thrombocytopenia, immunodeficiency, autoimmunity, and hematologic malignancies. Secondary mutations leading to re-expression of WAS protein (WASP) are relatively frequent in patients with WAS.The tissue distribution and function of revertant cells were investigated in a novel case of WAS gene secondary mutation.A vast combination of approaches was used to characterize the second-site mutation, to investigate revertant cell function, and to track their distribution over a 18-year clinical follow-up.The WAS gene secondary mutation was a 4-nucleotide insertion, 4 nucleotides downstream of the original deletion. This somatic mutation allowed the T-cell-restricted expression of a stable, full-length WASP with a 3-amino acid change compared with the wild-type protein. WASP(+) T cells appeared early in the spleen (age 10 years) and were highly enriched in a mesenteric lymph node at a later time (age 23 years). Revertant T cells had a diversified T-cell-receptor repertoire and displayed in vitro and in vivo selective advantage. They proliferated and produced cytokines normally on T-cell-receptor stimulation. Consistently, the revertant WASP correctly localized to the immunologic synapse and to the leading edge of migrating T cells.Despite the high proportion of functional revertant T cells, the patient still has severe infections and autoimmune disorders, suggesting that re-expression of WASP in T cells is not sufficient to normalize immune functions fully in patients with WAS.