OBJECTIVES--To determine the phenotype of peripheral blood lymphocytes during the time-course of adjuvant arthritis (AA) to detect alterations that could be involved in the pathogenesis of the arthritic process. METHODS--Phenotype analysis was performed on days 7, 14, 21, 28, 42, 56 and 70 after arthritis induction using monoclonal antibodies to CD5, CD4 and CD8 subsets, and flow cytometry. The proportion of activated lymphocytes and lymphocytes was also assessed with monoclonal antibodies to IL-2R (CD25), to Ia antigen and by polyclonal antibodies to rat Ig. RESULTS--Adjuvant arthritis produced leukocytosis with neutrophilia. Rats with AA showed a marked increase in the number of both CD4+ and CD8+ cells. The ratio CD4/CD8 decreased because the rise in CD8+ cells was more pronounced than the increase in CD4+ cells. Changes in lymphocyte counts showed two well-defined periods: the first, from day 14 to day 28, during which the inflammation of the joints reached a maximum and changes in lymphocyte subsets were more pronounced, that is, there was a threefold increase in CD8+ lymphocytes over normal counts, and the second, from day 42 to day 70, in which modified parameters improved considerably but remained different from controls. CONCLUSION--Alterations were detected in the phenotype of peripheral blood lymphocytes in AA, which provides an additional marker of disease activity.
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