T cell subpopulations were assessed by two colour flow cytometry with phycoerythrin conjugated anti-CD45RA and anti-CD29 and fluorescein conjugated anti-CD4 and anti-CD8 monoclonal antibodies, on peripheral blood lymphocytes from 12 patients with systemic sclerosis and from nine control subjects. The percentage of CD4+CD29+ cells was significantly higher in patients with systemic sclerosis than in controls (mean (SEM) 68.8 (3.1) v 47.9 (4.1) respectively). CD4+CD45RA+ cells were not significantly different in patients and controls. CD8+CD29+ and CD8+CD45RA+ subpopulations were significantly higher in patients with systemic sclerosis than in controls (83.0 (3.2) v 58.7 (6.8) and 80.2 (3.0) v 66.9 (3.2) respectively). The increase in the percentage of CD29+ cells suggests an activation of memory cells in patients with systemic sclerosis, which may play an important part in the pathogenesis of the disease.
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