Aberrations in the T cell repertoire with the emergence of oligoclonal populations have been described in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the extent of the repertoire perturbations as well as the underlying mechanisms are not known. We now have examined the diversity of the peripheral CD4 T cell repertoire by determining the frequencies of arbitrarily selected T cell receptor (TCR) β-chain sequences. Healthy individuals displayed a highly diverse repertoire, with a median frequency of individual TCR β-chain sequences of 1 in 2.4 x 107 CD4 T cells. In RA patients, the median TCR β-chain frequency was increased 10-fold, indicating marked contraction of the repertoire (P < 0.001). The loss in TCR diversity was not limited to CD4 memory T cells but also involved the compartment of naive T cells, suggesting that it reflected an abnormality in T cell repertoire formation and not a consequence of antigen recognition in the synovium. Also, control patients with chronic inflammatory disease such as hepatitis C expressed a diverse repertoire indistinguishable from that of normals. Telomere length studies indicated an increased replicative history of peripheral CD4 T cells in RA patients, suggesting an enhanced turnover within the CD4 compartment. Compared with age-matched controls, terminal restriction fragment sizes were 1.7 kilobases shorter (P < 0.001). These data demonstrate an altered CD4 T cell homeostasis in RA that may contribute to the autoimmune response as well as to the immunodeficiency in these patients.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Nov 24 1998|
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