Intracytoplasmic cytokine expression and T cell subset distribution in the peripheral blood of patients with ankylosing spondylitis

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Objective. To determine the role of inflammatory mediators in the pathogenesis of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), we investigated peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets and their intracellular cytokine production. Methods. The percentages of T and B lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, activated T lymphocytes, CD4+ T helper (Th), and CD8+ T cytotoxic (Tc) cells were determined by flow cytometry in 42 patients with AS compared to 52 healthy controls. In order to assess circulating Th1/Th2 and Tc1/Tc2 subsets, we used a whole-blood cytometric assay based on the intracellular interferon-γ, interleukin 4 (IL-4), and IL-10 expression of the cells. Results. In the peripheral blood, the frequencies of CD4+ T helper and CD56+ NK cells were higher in AS (54.8% and 16.2%, respectively) compared to controls (45.3% and 10.8%) (p < 0.05). The frequencies of Th0 (1.9% vs 0.8%) and Tc0 (2.1% vs 0.8%) cells were higher, while that of Tc1 cells was lower (26.6% vs 40.1%) in patients with AS versus controls (p < 0.05). The percentage of IL-10-producing Tc cells was significantly higher in AS (18.4%) versus controls (8.5%) (p < 0.05). Finally, the active phase of AS was associated with significantly lower percentage of IL-10-producing Tc cells in the peripheral blood (6.6%) compared to patients with inactive AS (23.1%). Conclusion. Our results provide further evidence for an altered T cell subset distribution and intracytoplasmic cytokine balance in AS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2372-2375
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2008



  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • CD4+ cells
  • CD8+ cells
  • Intracellular cytokines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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