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Morphological evidence that activated polymorphs circulate in the peripheral blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
  1. D A McCarthy,
  2. J Bernhagen,
  3. M J Taylor,
  4. A S Hamblin,
  5. I James,
  6. P W Thompson,
  7. J D Perry
  1. School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, UK.


    Purified peripheral blood polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNs) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been found to differ from purified PMNs from normal subjects in ways that are consistent with their prior activation. However, it is currently contentious whether activated PMNs really circulate in patients with RA, or whether they are produced as an in vitro artefact of purification. Recently developed rapid leucocyte fixation and preparation technique showed that the proportion of polarised (activated) PMNs (36.9 (24.7)%, mean (SD); n = 31) was increased relative to that in control subjects (8.1 (5.6)%; n = 12). Serum cytidine deaminase levels, a biochemical marker of PMN lysis, were also increased in patients with RA (11.59 (7.26) U/ml) compared with those in controls (6.82 (3.78) U/ml), but the proportion of polarised PMNs and the levels of cytidine deaminase activity were unrelated to clinical assessments of inflammatory disease activity. Twelve patients who were not receiving drugs or who were receiving only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) had more polarised PMNs than 19 patients receiving second line treatment in addition to NSAIDs (patients receiving NSAIDs, 49.6 (25.9)%; patients receiving second line treatment, 27.5 (21.1)%). Fluorescence activated cytometric analysis of CR1 and CR3 expression on PMNs from a randomly selected subgroup of patients with RA showed that the serum level of cytidine deaminase activity was correlated positively with the expression of CR1 (the C3b receptor) on the cell surface and that the proportion of polarised PMNs was positively correlated with the expression of CR3 (or CD11b/CD18), the iC3b receptor that is upregulated on activation. It is suggested that the polarised PMNs which circulate in blood samples from patients with RA represent cells which have been activated but not yet marginated, or activated cells which have marginated but subsequently returned to the circulating pool.

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