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J Clin Invest. 1974 Jan;53(1):240-6.

The effect of in vivo hydrocortisone on subpopulations of human lymphocytes.


This study was designed to determine the effect of in vivo hydrocortisone on subpopulations of lymphoid cells in normal humans. Subjects received a single intravenous dose of either 100 mg or 400 mg of hydrocortisone, and blood was drawn at hourly intervals for 6 h, and then again at 10 and 24 h after injection. Profound decreases in absolute numbers of circulating lymphocytes and monocytes occurred at 4-6 h after both 100 mg and 400 mg of hydrocortisone. Counts returned to normal by 24 h. The relative proportion of circulating thymus-derived lymphocytes as measured by the sheep red blood cell rosette assay decreased maximally by 4 h and returned to base line 24 h after hydrocortisone. There was a selective depletion of functional subpopulations of lymphocytes as represented by differential effects on in vitro stimulation with various mitogens and antigens. Phytohaemagglutinin response was relatively unaffected, while responses to concanavalin A were significantly diminished. Responses to pokeweed mitogen were unaffected by 100 mg of hydrocortisone, but greatly diminished by 400 mg of hydrocortisone. In vitro responses to the antigens streptokinase-streptodornase and tetanus toxoid were markedly diminished by in vivo hydrocortisone. Reconstitution of monocyte-depleted cultures with autologous monocytes partially corrected the diminished response to antigens. This transient selective depletion of monocytes and subsets of human lymphocytes by a single dose of hydrocortisone is most compatible with a redistribution of these cells out of the circulation into other body compartments.

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