Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
A limiting dilution system was established in order to estimate frequencies of interleukin-2 (IL-2)-responsive, autoreactive and alloreactive T cells in samples of peripheral blood (PBL) and synovial fluid lymphocytes (SFL), from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and
lyme disease, as well as from healthy donors and a patient with osteoarthrosis. The frequencies of IL-2-dependent T-cell colony formation were significantly higher in patients with RA and
lyme disease (median: 1/287) as compared to controls (median: 1/1,313) indicating a preactivation of T cells in these patients in vivo. Autoreactivity was measured by the proliferative response of T-cell lines to autologous irradiated PBL as stimulating cells. The frequencies of autoreactive T cells in blood were significantly higher in patients (median: 1/2,615) as compared to controls (median: 1/19,607). There was no significant difference in autoreactive T-cell frequencies between the patients’ SFL (median: 1/3,185) and PBL (median: 1/2,615). In every case the frequency of alloreactive T cells exceeded the frequency of autoreactive T cells. Most autoreactive T-cell lines were also alloreactive and were shown to be MHC Class II-restricted. There is evidence of a down regulation of autoreactive T cells by suppressor cells in peripheral blood in two cases with elevated autoreactive T-cell frequencies (one RA patient and one control patient suffering from a viral infection). In contrast, no suppression of autoreactive T cells was observed in the RA patients’ SFL or in PBL and SFL from patients with
lyme disease. These results suggest that the chronic inflammation observed in RA and
lyme disease may be supported by an elevated number of autoreactive T cells in the absence of suppressive mechanisms.