Lymphocyte subpopulations in the intestinal mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease have been studied using a double marker immunofluorescence technique. Analysis of tissue sections revealed that the majority of intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) were T cells (Hle-1+ HuTLA+ UCHT1+). Of these, over 80% were of suppressor-cytotoxic phenotype (OKT8+:83 +/- 10.2%) with a small population of helper type IEL (OKT4+). Only one third of OKT8+ IEL reacted with the T cell antibody, anti-Leu-1. IEL were also Tac-, C3b-receptor- (C3RT05-), and Ig-. Within the lamina propria, OKT4+ T cells predominated (ulcerative colitis 64 +/- 6.0%; Crohn's disease 63 +/- 6.0%). Less than half of the smaller OKT8+ population in the lamina propria was Leu-1+. These finding did not differ from those seen in histologically normal tissues from controls, and are similar to those reported in the small intestine. Mononuclear cells were also isolated from the intestinal lamina propria using an enzymatic technique. The majority of lymphocytes obtained were T cells (OKT3+), with populations of OKT4+ and OKT8+ cells. Comparison of the ratio of OKT4+ to OKT8+ lymphocytes determined by immunohistological analysis with that obtained in mucosal isolates, however, suggested that the isolation procedure may deplete OKT8+ cells. These findings indicate that an imbalance of mucosal immunoregulatory T cells, as defined by monoclonal antibodies, does not occur in inflammatory bowel disease. They also emphasize that functional studies of isolated intestinal mucosal cells should be combined with morphological studies of cell populations in situ.
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