Earlier studies regarding possible primary immune disturbances participating in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease yielded conflicting results. Peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets and lymphocyte proliferative responses to five soluble recall antigens and to the polyclonal stimulator phythaemagglutinin were therefore measured in 17 patients with active Crohn's disease, before and six months after surgical resection of the inflamed intestine and in 16 healthy controls. Lymphocyte proliferation in response to all five recall antigens was significantly lower in patients than in controls. No significant differences with controls were detected after surgery. Addition of indomethacin to phythaemagglutinin stimulated lymphocyte cultures had a stronger proliferation enhancing effect in patients than in controls, resulting in comparable proliferative responses in both groups. When both indomethacin and prostaglandin E2 were added, inhibition of reactivity by prostaglandin E2 was stronger in patients' cultures. This suggests a higher sensitivity to inflammatory prostaglandins in Crohn's disease. The degree of lymphocyte stimulation by antigens correlated positively with the percentage of circulating memory T cells (CD 45 RA-). The percentage of activated (HLA-DR+) CD8 cells was higher in patients than in controls. The CD4/CD8 ratio, which was not significantly different between patients and controls, correlated significantly with disease activity and characteristics, even in the postoperative phase. These findings suggest that immune abnormalities in Crohn's disease fluctuate with and are probably secondary to inflammatory activity.
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