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Rheumatol Int. 1997;16(5):207-11.

Stimulation of whole blood cultures in patients with ankylosing spondylitis by a mitogen derived from Mycoplasma arthritidis (MAS) and other mitogens.

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Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, University of L├╝beck Medical School, Germany.


In this study we compared cytokine production and cell proliferation of immunocompetent cells derived from patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) to those from healthy blood donors using a whole blood assay. To this end, blood cell cultures were stimulated with the superantigens MAS (Mycoplasma arthritidis supernatant) and staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) and the plant lectins phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and concanavalin A (Con A). The number of white blood cells (WBC) and lymphocyte subsets were also determined. Cell proliferation and levels of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were measured after stimulation with the different mitogens. An ELISA test was used to analyse supernatant cytokine levels. Individuals with AS showed significantly lower IFN-gamma concentrations and markedly lower cell proliferation rates with all tested mitogens than healthy controls, while there was no significant difference in IL-6 synthesis. IL-1 beta levels were slightly impaired in the patient group, but only blood cell cultures stimulates with MAS showed a statistical significance. Furthermore, there was a significant elevation of leucocytes and lymphocytes in patients with AS resulting in higher numbers of CD4-positive cells, which implies a higher CD4:CD8 cell ratio. CD19- and CD8-positive cells were not significantly distinct compared to healthy controls. This deviation in cytokine levels and cell proliferation points to a suppression of T lymphocytes. A disturbed T-lymphocyte function may play a part in the pathogenesis of AS.

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