Two colour flow cytometry techniques were used to assess the activation stages of peripheral and intraocular T lymphocytes in uveitis. Increased numbers of T lymphocytes bearing the interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptors were found in intraocular fluids or peripheral blood or both of 35/51 patients with uveitis. This increased expression of IL-2 receptors on lymphocytes correlated with increased expression of other early T lymphocyte activation markers, HLA-DR and L-35. Both T helper cells (Leu-3A+) and suppressor cells (Leu 2A+) were activated in vivo. A positive correlation was seen between lymphocyte activation and clinical uveitis activity. In idiopathic uveitis activation of Leu-3A lymphocytes (helper/inducer) was significantly increased, and intraocular activation of the Leu-2A lymphocytes (cytotoxic/suppressor) was significantly decreased. These data show that some patients with idiopathic uveitis have a perturbation of T helper cells. Twenty-two of 31 patients with idiopathic uveitis, not associated with systemic disease, had increased peripheral T lymphocyte activation. This finding indicates that in some inflammations believed to be restricted to the eye an abnormal systemic immune activation exists.
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