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J Invest Dermatol. 1993 Dec;101(6):794-9.

Predominance of epidermal CD8+ T lymphocytes in bullous cutaneous reactions caused by beta-lactam antibiotics.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Cologne, Germany.


The phenotype and functional characteristics of skin-infiltrating lymphocytes in beta-lactam antibiotic-induced vesiculobullous exanthemas were studied in vivo and in vitro. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated that CD8+ T lymphocytes were the predominant epidermal T-cell subset in these reactions. Epidermal T lymphocytes were isolated and expanded for in vitro studies. Fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis showed the majority of epidermal T cells to be CD3+, T-cell receptor alpha/beta+, CD4-, CD8+, and HLA-DR+, which correlated with the predominance of epidermal CD8+ T lymphocytes found in situ. Three CD8+ epidermal T-cell clones derived from cutaneous lesions proliferated in response to penicillin-pulsed autologous antigen-presenting cells but not allogeneic antigen-presenting cells, indicating that those clones were antigen and major histocompatibility complex specific. All T-cell clones produced significant amounts of interleukin-2, interferon-gamma, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. Additionally, the T-cell clones displayed cytotoxicity against epidermal cells in lectin-mediated cytotoxicity and against B-cell lines in T-cell receptor-triggered cytotoxicity. These data demonstrate the presence of epidermal drug-specific CD8+ T cells in bullous drug reactions. Because these CD8+ T cells have a cytotoxic potential, they may contribute to the necrosis of keratinocytes associated with drug-induced blister formation.

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