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Arthritis Rheum. 1997 May;40(5):927-35.

Induction of apoptosis in peripheral blood lymphocytes following treatment in vitro with hydroxychloroquine.

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Sydney Children's Hospital, and The University of New South Wales, Australia.



Defective regulation of apoptosis may be central to the development of autoimmune disorders. This study investigated the possibility that the antirheumatic effect of hydroxycholoroquine (HCQ) may be achieved by up-regulation of apoptosis.


Peripheral blood lymphocytes collected from normal controls and patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were cultured in the presence or absence of a range of concentrations of HCQ. Cells undergoing apoptosis were identified by several standard methods, including morphologic changes, DNA fragmentation, and flow cytometry. For some experiments, lymphocytes were simultaneously stained with antibodies to T cell surface markers and with propidium iodide for dual-stain flow cytometric studies.


HCQ was able to induce apoptosis in peripheral blood lymphocytes in a dose- and time-dependent manner. HCQ induced these changes in all T cell subpopulations studied. There was no significant difference between the controls and patients with SLE in terms of the percentage of apoptotic cells detected following treatment with HCQ.


The present study demonstrated that HCQ induces apoptosis in peripheral blood lymphocytes, which leads to the speculation that HCQ may exert its antirheumatic effect through this mechanism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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