Immunohistochemical features of infiltrating mononuclear cells (MNC) and resident cells were studied in the temporal artery biopsy specimens of 13 patients with histological verified giant cell arteritis (GCA) and in six biopsy specimens from patients with GCA with negative histological findings. Eight temporal artery biopsy specimens from seven patients with unrelated diseases served as controls. In all patients with GCA proved by biopsy an infiltration of T lymphocytes in the arterial wall was observed, most being of the helper/inducer subset. No B lymphocytes, or very few, were seen. Lymphocytes in 10 out of the 13 positive biopsy specimens displayed staining for the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigen HLA-DR, whereas this was found in only two of eight controls. A minor number of the infiltrating T lymphocytes from seven out of 13 patients with GCA proved by biopsy stained for transferrin receptors, and in six out of the 13 cases they reacted with anti-interleukin 2 receptor antibody. In the arterial wall from all patients with histologically verified GCA we also found an increased number of macrophages, many of them expressing HLA-DR antigens and transferrin receptors. The immunohistochemical pattern of cell phenotypes found in the arterial wall of patients with GCA suggests that the infiltrating T cells are immunologically activated. This finding supports the hypothesis of a predominantly cellular immunological pathogenesis of giant cell arteritis.
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