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N Engl J Med. 1987 Jan 8;316(2):67-72.

Selective loss of the suppressor-inducer T-cell subset in progressive multiple sclerosis. Analysis with anti-2H4 monoclonal antibody.


The T4+ lymphocyte population includes a subset that induces suppressor T lymphocytes (T8+ cells) and can be distinguished by dual-color fluorescence analysis with anti-2H4 and anti-T4 monoclonal antibodies. To investigate the possible role of these cells in multiple sclerosis, we used anti-2H4 antibody to characterize peripheral-blood lymphocyte subsets in 63 patients with multiple sclerosis that was progressive, stable, or acute (relapsing-remitting). Twenty-three of 37 patients with progressive multiple sclerosis had a selective decrease in the number and percentage of peripheral-blood T cells that induce suppressor cells (T4+2H4+ cells), whereas only 3 of 16 patients with stable disease and 2 of 10 patients in the midst of an acute attack had a significant decrease. These selective decreases of circulating T4+2H4+ cells occurred in only 1 of 34 patient controls with other neurologic diseases and in 2 of 50 healthy controls (P less than 0.0001 by Fisher's exact test). The absolute number of T4+2H4+ cells and the percentage of reactivity in the populations studied were 187 +/- 28 per cubic millimeter and 8.3 +/- 1 percent in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis; 353 +/- 60 per cubic millimeter and 14.5 +/- 2 percent in patients with stable disease; 368 +/- 72 and 14.6 +/- 2.1 percent in patients with acute disease; 402 +/- 64 and 15.6 +/- 2 percent in controls with other neurologic diseases; and 519 +/- 44 and 19.7 +/- 1 percent in healthy controls. Functional studies using a pokeweed mitogen-driven IgG assay demonstrated a correlation between decreased numbers of T4+2H4+ cells and increased production of IgG in vitro. Family studies showed that the 2H4 antigen was not part of an inherited polymorphic antigenic determinant. Our results suggest that in progressive multiple sclerosis decreases in inducers of suppressor T cells may permit the activation of cells reactive with elements of the central nervous system.

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