The lymphocytotoxicity of 33 lupus sera was tested against purified helper/inducer (OKT4) and cytotoxic/suppressor (OKT8) subsets of T lymphocytes at 15 degrees C and 37 degrees C in vitro. There was significantly less killing of both OKT4 and OKT8 cells at 37 degrees C (p less than 0.001 and p less than 0.01) and the ratio of OKT4/OKT8 cell killing at 15 degrees C (1.39 (0.73); mean (SD] was different from that observed at 37 degrees C (0.79 (0.42)) (p less than 0.001). OKT4 killing was greater than OKT8 killing in 21 out of 33 sera at 15 degrees C, while 22 of these sera showed predominantly OKT8 cytotoxicity at 37 degrees C. The relation between the OKT4/OKT8 cell ratio and OKT4/OKT8 serum killing was examined in 22 patients at both temperatures: a significant inverse correlation was observed at 37 degrees C (r = -0.53; p = 0.015) but not at 15 degrees C (p greater than 0.05). The addition of metabolic and cytoskeletal inhibitors increased cytotoxicity at 37 degrees C, but not IgM surface binding. A Scatchard binding analysis of the reaction at 15 degrees C showed that large numbers of antibody molecules were bound to both subsets, with a low average dissociation constant of less than or equal to 6 x 10(-8) mol/l, and electrophoretic blotting indicated that the target surface antigens varied in type and number among individual lymphocytotoxic sera. The demonstration of temperature dependent, tight binding between lymphocytotoxic antibody and variable antigens on the T cell surface emphasises the potential for this phenomenon to affect lymphocyte function in vivo in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.
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