The effects of in vivo hydrocortisone administration on the kinetics and functional capabilities of cells involved in the immune response in sarcoidosis were examined. Untreated sarcoidosis patients have a decrease in the absolute numbers of circulating T lymphocytes (P < 0.05). However, with regard to the proportions of T lymphocyte subpopulations, there is an increase in the relative proportions of IgG Fc receptor positive T cells (TG) (P < 0.01), which have suppressor capabilities in certain in vitro systems of mitogen-induced antibody production, and a relative decrease in IgM Fc receptor positive T lymphocytes (TM) which have helper effects in this system (P < 0.05). Additionally, sarcoidosis patients have circulating "suppressor" monocytes capable of suppressing anti-sheep red blood cell (SRBC) plaque-forming cell (PFC) responses by pokeweed mitogen (PWM)-stimulated lymphocytes. The in vitro removal of this cell abrogated this depressed response (P < 0.01). Intravenous administration of hydrocortisone produced a transient absolute T lymphocytopenia (P < 0.01) accompanied by a relative increase in TG cells (P < 0.01) and a relative decrease in TM cells (P < 0.02). Four hours after hydrocortisone therapy, at the point of maximal hydrocortisone-induced monocytopenia (P < 0.01), the suppressed ability of sarcoidosis lymphocytes to synthesize and secrete in vitro anti-SRBC antibody after polyclonal activation was corrected (P < 0.01), and PFC responses comparable to those seen in untreated normal subjects were obtained. These studies demonstrate that corticosteroid administration has profound effects on certain in vitro demonstrable immunoregulatory abnormalities in sarcoidosis.
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