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Soluble interleukin 2 receptors in autoimmune chronic active hepatitis.
  1. A Lobo-Yeo,
  2. G Mieli-Vergani,
  3. A P Mowat,
  4. D Vergani
  1. Department of Child Health, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London.


    Children with uncontrolled autoimmune chronic active hepatitis have increased numbers of activated T lymphocytes expressing interleukin 2 receptors (IL2R). A soluble form of IL2R has recently been described whose proposed role is to downregulate T cell activation by competing for interleukin 2. We investigated whether a deficiency of soluble IL2R could account for the high concentrations of IL2R positive T lymphocytes in autoimmune chronic active hepatitis. Soluble IL2R was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in the serum of 16 children with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis, eight with chronic liver disease due to hepatitis B virus infection, seven with Wilson's disease, nine with alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, and 15 healthy age matched controls. Soluble IL2R concentration was significantly higher in patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis than in healthy controls (mean (SEM) 475 (75) U/ml, 145 (8) U/ml respectively, p less than 0.01). Eleven patients who had active disease had significantly higher soluble IL2R concentrations (590 (89) U/ml) than the five cases with inactive disease (220 (36) U/ml, p less than 0.01). No difference was found between the controls and the patients with chronic liver disease due to hepatitis B infection, Wilson's disease, and alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency. Percentages and absolute numbers of surface IL2R positive T cells as detected by immunofluorescence were significantly higher in the patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis (11.8% (1); 274/microliters (31)) than in controls (0.2% (0.1); 5/microliters (2), p less than 0.001), the highest values being found in those with uncontrolled disease. A significantly positive correlation was observed between concentrations of soluble IL2R and the percentage of T cells expressing IL2 receptors (r=0.67, p<0.001). These results indicate that the high levels of IL2R positive T lymphocytes characteristic of autoimmune chronic active hepatitis are not due to a deficiency of soluble IL2 receptors.

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