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N Engl J Med. 1985 May 30;312(22):1405-11.

In vivo activated T lymphocytes in the peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis.


We found an increase in peripheral-blood lymphocytes bearing the T-cell-specific activation antigen Ta1 in 20 of 35 patients with progressive multiple sclerosis, 4 of 18 patients with stable or improving multiple sclerosis, 1 of 17 patients with other neurologic diseases, and 1 of 14 normal controls (P less than 0.0002, Fisher's exact test). No increases in two other markers of T-cell activation, T113 and the interleukin-2 receptor, were found. In the cerebrospinal fluid, patients with progressive multiple sclerosis (pleocytosis, 3.9 +/- 1.6 cells per cubic millimeter) had 42 +/- 3.0 per cent Ta1+ cells. In contrast, patients with other inflammatory central nervous system diseases (36 +/- 13 cells per cubic millimeter) had 9.6 +/- 1.8 per cent Ta1+ cells (P less than 0.01). In patients with other neurologic diseases without inflammation (0.7 +/- 0.16 cells per cubic millimeter), the percentage of Ta1+ cells was equivalent to that in patients with multiple sclerosis (39 +/- 5.4 per cent), although the absolute number was lower. There was a positive correlation between the presence of Ta1+ cells in the spinal fluid and blood of patients with other neurologic diseases, but not patients with multiple sclerosis. Less than 1 per cent of lymphocytes from the spinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis expressed interleukin-2 receptors, as compared with 9.8 per cent of cells from subjects with other inflammatory neurologic diseases (P less than 0.01). These results suggest that the T cells in the spinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis may be activated by a different mechanism or in a different temporal sequence from that in patients with other nervous system diseases. Furthermore, the increase in Ta1+ cells in the peripheral blood of patients with multiple sclerosis demonstrates systemic immune activation in the disease; monitoring such cells may provide an objective measure of abnormal immunologic activity.

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