Paradoxical CD4 lymphopenia in autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS)

Andrea Lisco, Chun Shu Wong, Susan Price, Peiying Ye, Julie Niemela, Megan Anderson, Elizabeth Richards, Maura Manion, Harry Mystakelis, Morgan Similuk, Bernice Lo, Jennifer Stoddard, Sergio Rosenzweig, Christophe Vanpouille, Adam Rupert, Irina Maric, Ainhoa Perez-Diez, David Parenti, Peter D. Burbelo, V. Koneti RaoIrini Sereti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) is caused by germline or somatic loss of function FAS mutations resulting in impaired apoptosis and consequent expansion of T-lymphocytes causing organomegaly and autoimmune anemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Herein, we report on a case of disseminated varicella zoster infection after post-partum vaccination in a patient found to have CD4 lymphopenia and eventually diagnosed with ALPS caused by a novel germline missense mutation in FAS death-domain. A subsequent retrospective analysis of 169 patients of the NIH ALPS-FAS cohort, revealed that CD4-T-cells lymphopenia (< 300 cells/μl) may occur in 5% of ALPS-FAS patients irrespectively of the underlying genetic defect, organomegaly or immunosuppressive treatment. Although immunophenotyping did not show depletion of specific CD4-T-cells subpopulations, CD4-lymphopenic ALPS-FAS subjects had an expansion of a subset of circulating T-follicular-helper (cTfh) cells, associated with autoantibody production (CCR7lowPD-1high). Furthermore, autoantibodies binding on CD4-T-cells were detected in 50% of the CD4-lymphopenic ALPS-FAS patients and caused cytotoxicity in a natural killer (NK)-mediated antibody-dependent-cellular cytotoxicity assay. Such autoantibodies can therefore be associated with CD4-T-cell death, impaired activation induced proliferation or impaired trafficking. The expansion of autoreactive T-cells in ALPS-FAS is known to be associated with autoimmune clinical manifestations, however our study reveals that ALPS-FAS can also be associated with a paradoxical depletion of CD4-T-cells due to the presence of autoantibodies on the surface of CD4-T-cells which can in turn result in increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections. These novel findings have implications for the diagnosis, clinical monitoring, and management of patients with ALPS-FAS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1193
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019



  • Apoptosis
  • Autoimmune cytopenia
  • CD4 lymphopenia
  • Follicular T helper cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

Cite this

Lisco, A., Wong, C. S., Price, S., Ye, P., Niemela, J., Anderson, M., Richards, E., Manion, M., Mystakelis, H., Similuk, M., Lo, B., Stoddard, J., Rosenzweig, S., Vanpouille, C., Rupert, A., Maric, I., Perez-Diez, A., Parenti, D., Burbelo, P. D., ... Sereti, I. (2019). Paradoxical CD4 lymphopenia in autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS). Frontiers in immunology, 10(MAY), [1193].