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Transplantation. 1998 Apr 27;65(8):1066-71.

Quantitation of immunosuppression by flow cytometric measurement of the capacity of T cells for interleukin-2 production.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Methods to quantitate the effects of immunosuppressive drugs on immune reactivity might be helpful for monitoring immunosuppressive treatment. Cyclosporine (CsA) inhibits the induction of cytokine synthesis in T cells, and measurement of interleukin (IL)-2 production might constitute a parameter of this drug's effect.


We determined the percentages of CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes producing IL-2 upon stimulation by phorbol myristate acetate and calcium ionophore in whole blood culture, using immunostaining of intracytoplasmatic and membrane markers, followed by multiparameter flow cytometry. A total of 38 clinically stable transplant patients on various immunosuppressive protocols were studied.


The percentage of CD4+ T cells producing IL-2 was strongly reduced in patients compared with healthy controls (23% [range, 3-68%] vs. 59.0% [range, 41-70%]; P=0.000035). The percentage of CD4+ T cells producing IL-2 was negatively correlated with the CsA level (Rc=-0.0821, P=0.00002297) but not with prednisolone or azathioprine doses. Fewer CD8+ T cells produced IL-2 in transplant patients compared with controls, but the difference failed to reach statistical significance. The percentage of CD8+ T cells capable of producing IL-2 was inversely correlated to CsA levels (Rc=-0.0375, P=0.0011).


These data suggest that the functional effects of CsA in transplant recipients can be quantitatively determined and that the capacity of CD4+ T cells to produce IL-2 upon stimulation constitutes a functional parameter of CsA effects on the immune system. Prospective studies are required to determine whether this method is useful for clinical monitoring.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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