In patients with progressive systemic sclerosis (PSS) lymphocyte responses to phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) are abnormal (27.2 +/- 3.5 X 10(-3) counts per minute (cpm) versus 69.8 +/- 4.4 X 10(-3) for normal persons, p less than 0.005). Removal of adherent peripheral blood mononuclear cells improves the response of PSS lymphocytes (42.3 +/- 3.4 X 10(-3) cpm, 155% of control) but diminishes the response of normal lymphocytes (60.3 +/- 5.9 +/- 10(-3), 86% of control). Supernatant fluids from cultures of PSS unfractionated and adherent cells depress normal T cell response to PHA (64% and 55% of control respectively), but supernatant fluids from normal unfractionated and adherent cells do not (104% and 101% of control). Supernatant fluids of PSS and normal adherent cells, cultured in the presence of indomethacin, are not inhibitory to normal T cells (109 +/- 15% and 124 +/- 14% of control respectively). Supernatant fluids from PSS patients are more inhibitory than comparable fluids from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (60 +/- 8% of control versus 80 +/- 5% of control). These data support the hypothesis that cellular immunity is abnormal in patients with PSS and indicate that adherent mononuclear cells mediate at least one component of the abnormality via an indomethacin-sensitive mechanism.
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