Using two colour immunofluorescence with fluorescein isothiocyanate and phycoerythrin labelled monoclonal antibodies, multi-parameter flow cytometry was used to examine the antigenic characteristics of peripheral blood lymphocytes in whole blood of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease who were not taking immunosuppressive drugs. The numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease remained unchanged so that the CD4/CD8 ratio was the same as that of normal control subjects. In Crohn's disease there were many activated T cells (CD3+, CD25+). Although natural killer cells in active Crohn's disease were lower than in normal control subjects, cytotoxic T lymphocytes, as defined by CD3+, CD16+, did not differ in patients with inflammatory bowel disease compared with normal control subjects. For B cell subsets, there were differences in Leu-1+ B cells, Leu-8+ B cells, Fc epsilon R+B cells (Leu-16+, Leu-20+), and activated B cells (Leu-12+, Leu-21+) between patients with inflammatory bowel disease and normal control subjects. These differences are compatible with local activation of B cells in the inflamed colon.
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