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Open Access Research article

Prevalence, clinical relevance and characterization of circulating cytotoxic CD4+CD28- T cells in ankylosing spondylitis

Christina Duftner1, Christian Goldberger1, Albrecht Falkenbach2, Reinhard Würzner3, Barbara Falkensammer3, Karl P Pfeiffer4, Elisabeth Maerker-Hermann5 and Michael Schirmer1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

2 Gasteiner Heilstollen Hospital, Bad Gastein-Böckstein, Austria

3 Institute of Hygiene and Social Medicine, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

4 Institute of Biostatistics, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

5 HSK-Aukammallee, Wiesbaden, Germany

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Arthritis Res Ther 2003, 5:R292-R300  doi:10.1186/ar793

Published: 16 July 2003

Abstract

Circulating CD3+CD4+CD28- cells exhibit reduced apoptosis and were found to be more enriched in patients with ankylosing spondylitis than in age-matched healthy control individuals (7.40 ± 6.6% versus 1.03 ± 1.0%; P < 0.001). Levels of CD4+CD28- T cells correlate with disease status as measured using a modified metrology score, but they are independent of age and duration of ankylosing spondylitis. CD4+CD28- T cells produce IFN-γ and perforin, and thus they must be considered proinflammatory and cytotoxic. These T cells share phenotypic and functional properties of natural killer cells, strongly expressing CD57 but lacking the lymphocyte marker CD7. MHC class I recognizing and activating natural killer cell receptors on the surface of CD4+CD28- T cells may be involved in a HLA-B27 mediated co-stimulation of these proinflammatory and cytotoxic cells.

Keywords:
ankylosing spondylitis; CD28 molecule; CD4+ T cells; cytotoxicity; HLA-B27.