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Am J Med. 1982 May;72(5):783-90.

Heterogeneity of immunoregulatory T-cell subsets in systemic lupus erythematosus. Correlation with clinical features.


Immunoregulatory T-cell subsets as defined by differentiation antigens were studied in 32 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and 16 healthy persons using the monoclonal antibodies OKT 3 or anti-Leu 4 (T cells), anti-Leu 2a (suppressor/cytotoxic cells) and anti-Leu 3a (helper/inducer cells). Compared with the 95 percent confidence limits in control subjects, decreases or increases of Leu 3a+ cells were observed in 23 patients, whereas abnormal percentages of Leu 2a+ cells were observed in only 10 patients (p less than 0.002). The ratio of Leu 3a+ to Leu 2a+ cells varied over a much broader range (0.31 to 4.14) in patients with SLE than in control subjects (95 percent confidence limit 1.04 to 2.20). Furthermore, the helper:suppressor ratio correlated significantly (p less than 0.001) with a numerical clinical characterization of the patients. A low helper: suppressor ratio was observed in patients with severe renal disease, thrombocytopenia and onset of SLE by 20 years of age. Patients with a high helper:suppressor ratio had multisystem disease including lymphadenopathy, but only rarely SLE renal disease. Patients with a normal helper:suppressor ratio had the most widespread multisystem disease, often involving the kidneys and the central nervous system. The ratio was not correlated with duration of illness, disease activity or corticosteroid dosage in the patients examined. The study suggests that SLE is not one disease entity, but rather a symptom complex with different immunoregulatory abnormalities and associated manifestations.

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