Spontaneous autologous rosette-forming cells (ARFC), which form rosettes with autologous erythrocytes, have been of interest as a subset of thymus-derived lymphocytes (T cells). An association of these cells with concanavalin A (Con A)-induced ARFC has been suggested. Furthermore, the Con A-induced ARFC have been shown to be a suppressor T-cell subset in the Con A-generated suppressor system. We have previously reported the induction of ARFC from T cells by several T-cell mitogens such as phytohemagglutinin-P (PHA) and allogeneic non-T cells other than Con A. In the present report, we further characterized the mitogeninduced ARFC and have extended the study to patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We have found that ARFC are also inducible from peripheral blood T cells by pokeweed mitogen (PWM). Studies of T-cell surface markers on the ARFC using OKT monoclonal antibodies confirmed the induction of ARFC from both OKT4- and OKT8-reactive T cells by either Con A, PHA, or PWM stimulation. However, OKT4-reactive T cells were the major cellular source of the ARFC induced by all of the mitogens. In studies of SLE patients, proportions of both Con A- and PWM-induced ARFC were found to be significantly low in PBL of SLE patients treated with moderate or large doses of prednisone, with or without concomitant immunosuppressants, but not in SLE patients without such treatment. Proportional analysis of the T cells and their subsets suggested association of these alterations in the mitogen-induced ARFC with the OKT4-reactive T cells, since a significant decrease in the OKT4-reactive T-cell subset was demonstrated in the PBL of these patients. Proportions of PHA-induced ARFC, however, were not significantly different between SLE patients and healthy adults. Moreover, positive correlations of the mitogen-induced ARFC with lymphocyte proliferative responses to each mitogen were established in both SLE patients and healthy adults. These results further support our previous observation that suggest the receptors for autologous erythrocytes are enhanced or reexpressed on those T cells which are highly activated by mitogens.
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