The peripheral lymphocytes of 50 cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (13 of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), 17 of AIDS related complex (ARC), and 20 healthy carriers) were studied immunoultrastructurally. The prevalence of "tubuloreticular structures" and "tubular confronting cisternae" increased with the progression of the disease. Numerous tubular confronting cisternae were noted in patients presenting with a high serum acid labile alpha-interferon values. The patients with depressed natural killer cell activity were characterised by circulating immature natural killer cells with abundant multivesicular bodies that were devoid of "parallel tubular arrays". With an immunogold staining technique the location of HIV antigen was detected ultrastructurally, both at the surface of "hand-mirror" natural killer cell lymphocytes and inside vacuolised cells, probably corresponding to infected T4 lymphocytes. These findings indicate the usefulness of electron microscopic techniques in evaluating the pathology and the pathogenetic outcome of AIDS.
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