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J Autoimmun. 1991 Aug;4(4):577-93.

Phenotypic analysis of skin infiltrates in comparison with peripheral blood lymphocytes, spleen cells and thymocytes in early avian scleroderma.

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Institute for General and Experimental Pathology, University of Innsbruck, Medical School, Austria.


University of California at Davis line 200 (UCD-200) chickens develop a hereditary connective tissue disease characterized by severe lymphocytic infiltration, vascular occlusion and fibrosis of skin and internal organs. To identify cellular immunological abnormalities in the acute inflammatory disease stage of this animal model for progressive systemic sclerosis (PSS) we investigated the phenotypic characteristics and function of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL), spleen cells and thymocytes in comparison with skin infiltrating cells. Immunofluorescence and immunohistochemical analysis using monoclonal antibodies revealed the overwhelming majority of skin infiltrating mononuclear cells in the deeper dermis and subcutaneous tissue to be T cell receptor alpha/beta (TcR2)+/CD3+/CD4+/class II+ cells, a small portion (5-10%) of which were interleukin 2 (IL-2) receptor positive. In contrast, the inflammatory infiltrate in perivascular areas of the papillary dermis was constituted of mainly TcR gamma/delta (TcR1)+/class II- lymphocytes. Only few B cells (T/B cell ratio greater than 5) were detected. These diseased chickens showed significantly reduced percentages and numbers of circulating peripheral T cells exhibiting TcR1, TcR2, CD3, CD4 or IL-2-receptor, probably owing to an increased influx into lymphoid organs and affected tissues. In contrast to healthy chickens, the thymi of UCD-200 animals revealed fewer cells expressing TcR1, TcR2 and class II antigen, suggesting an altered intrathymic maturation of the T cell lineage. Functional in vitro studies showed a significantly decreased T cell mitogen-induced proliferation rate associated with a decreased capacity to produce IL-2 and to express IL-2 receptors. In contrast to the deficient in vitro IL-2 production the sera of UCD-200 chickens contained significant levels of IL-2 bioactivity. The alteration of T lymphocyte physiology in UCD-200 chickens adds, at least in part, to the parallels between this animal model and its human counterpart. These data confirm our hypothesis that the PSS-like disease of UCD-200 chickens includes a numeric and/or functional alteration of peripheral T cell subsets, especially of TcR1 positive cells, in contrast to the pronounced accumulation in the afflicted tissues.

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