Objectives To examine the expression of surface markers on lymphocytes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods Peripheral blood samples were obtained from 36 patients with active RA (mean disease duration 8,8 years, mean age 54,8 years) and 18 normal subjects. The patients were treated with NSAIDs, DMARDs and prednisolone. Fluorescent flow cytometry on FACScan (Becfon Dichinson) was used to assess the expression of CD3, CD4, CD5, CD7, CD8, CD11b, CD16, CD18, CD20, CD25, CD26, CD50, CD54, CD56, CD71, CD95, HLA-DR antigens.
Results The expression of CD16 antigen on peripheral blood lymphocytes was elevated as compared with healthy volunteers (16,5 ± 1,7% vs 11 ± 1,5%, P = 0,03).
The percentage of lymphocytes expressing CD95 antigen was higher in patients treated with NSAIDs (n = 24) as compared with controls (32,9 ± 3,6% vs 25,6 ± 2,9%, P = 0,05). The expression of CD 95 antigen correlated with expression of antigens ÑD26 (r = 0,77), CD71 and CD25 (r = 0,6).
Conclusion Lymphocyte phenotype in RA patients is characterised by the increased expression of CD16.
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