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Use of V(D)J recombination excision circles to identify T- and B-cell defects and to monitor the treatment in primary and acquired immunodeficiencies

Federico Serana1, Marco Chiarini1, Cinzia Zanotti1, Alessandra Sottini1, Diego Bertoli1, Andrea Bosio1, Luigi Caimi2 and Luisa Imberti1*

Author Affiliations

1 Inter-departmental AIL Laboratory, Diagnostics Department, Spedali Civili of Brescia, Brescia, Italy

2 Clinical Biochemistry, Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2013, 11:119  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-11-119

Published: 9 May 2013


T-cell receptor excision circles (TRECs) and kappa-deleting recombination excision circles (KRECs) are circular DNA segments generated in T and B cells during their maturation in the thymus and bone marrow. These circularized DNA elements persist in the cells, are unable to replicate, and are diluted as a result of cell division, thus are considered markers of new lymphocyte output. The quantification of TRECs and KRECs, which can be reliably performed using singleplex or duplex real-time quantitative PCR, provides novel information in the management of T- and B-cell immunity-related diseases. In primary immunodeficiencies, when combined with flow cytometric analysis of T- and B-cell subpopulations, the measure of TRECs and KRECs has contributed to an improved characterization of the diseases, to the identification of patients’ subgroups, and to the monitoring of stem cell transplantation and enzyme replacement therapy. For the same diseases, the TREC and KREC assays, introduced in the newborn screening program, allow early disease identification and may lead to discovery of new genetic defects. TREC and KREC levels can also been used as a surrogate marker of lymphocyte output in acquired immunodeficiencies. The low number of TRECs, which has in fact been extensively documented in untreated HIV-infected subjects, has been shown to increase following antiretroviral therapy. Differently, KREC number, which is in the normal range in these patients, has been shown to decrease following long-lasting therapy. Whether changes of KREC levels have relevance in the biology and in the clinical aspects of primary and acquired immunodeficiencies remains to be firmly established.

Immunodeficiency; T-cell receptor excision circles; K-deleting recombination excision circles; Newborn screening