Using two colour immunofluorescence with fluorescein isothiocyanate and phycoerythrin labelled monoclonal antibodies and multiparameter flow cytometry, we investigated the coexpression of CD4 and CD8 antigens on peripheral blood lymphocytes and lamina propria lymphocytes of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and normal control subjects. Both the absolute number and the proportion of peripheral blood CD4+, CD8+ cells in inflammatory bowel disease were small but significantly increased compared with those in normal control subjects. Peripheral blood lymphocytes activated with phytohaemagglutinin showed appreciably increased coexpression of CD4+, CD8+. These CD4, CD8 positive cells were large and granular. Thus the increased number of peripheral blood CD4+, CD8+ cells in inflammatory bowel disease suggests that chronic immune activation occurs not only in the active state of the disease but also in remission. The proportion of CD4+, CD8+ cells in the lamina propria was greater than in peripheral blood in normal subjects, suggesting chronic immune stimulation of the local immune system. This was also seen in patients with Crohn's disease or inactive ulcerative colitis. The proportion of CD4+, CD8+ cells was, however, significantly less in the lamina propria of patients with active ulcerative colitis. Whether this implies a possible defect in mucosal immunoregulation in active ulcerative colitis cannot be determined from these results.
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