2003 Jun;34(3):165-7.

Author information

Pediatric Neuropsychiatry, Spedali Civili of Brescia, Brescia, Italy. limberti@yahoo.it


Ataxia-telangiectasia, a genetic disease caused by the homozygous mutation of the ATM gene, is frequently associated to a deficit of humoral and cellular immune functions. A decreased thymic output and skewed T cell and B cell receptor repertoires have been recently described in children over 7 years of age and in adults with this disease and have been proposed as a possible explanation for the immunodeficiency. To understand whether T cell defects arise early in life as a consequence of ATM gene mutations, we analysed the extent of thymic function by measuring the number of naïve T cells and by studying the heterogeneity of T cells by means of heteroduplex analysis, in two children less than 2 years old with a remarkable reduction of T cell count. We found that the thymic output is decreased in babies with ataxia-telangiectasia if compared with that observed in age-matched normal babies. The low production of new T cells is associated to a reduction of the diversity of alpha/beta, but not gamma/delta, T lymphocytes. Our data indicate that ATM mutation limits the generation of a wide alpha/beta T cell repertoire and this feature can be responsible for the immunodeficiency observed in ataxia-telangiectasia babies.

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