To evaluate the relationship between the frequency of peripheral CD57+ T cells and the physical status of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, and to perform cytokine analysis of these CD57+ T cells.


Four-color fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis was performed to detect both cell surface antigens and intracellular cytokines in peripheral blood leukocytes, using monoclonal antibodies against CD3, CD4, CD8, CD57, interferon-γ (IFNγ), and interleukin-4 (IL-4). RA patients were clinically evaluated with a modified Health Assessment Questionnaire (M-HAQ), joint score, face scale, and visual analog scale (VAS) assessing pain and disease activity.


There was a significant correlation between the frequency of CD4+,CD57+ T cells and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), whereas a correlation was not found between the frequency of CD8+,CD57+ T cells and ESR. The frequency of CD4+,CD57+ T cells also showed a significant correlation with the mHAQ score, VAS, and face scale. Again, there was no significant correlation between the above-mentioned clinical scores and the frequency of CD8+,CD57+ T cells. Flow cytometric analysis of intracellular cytokines revealed that 14.5% of the CD57+ T cells produced IFNγ, whereas only 2.8% of the CD57+ T cells produced IL-4 in RA patients.


Evidence showing that the frequency of CD4+,CD57+ T cells among CD3+ cells of RA patients had a significant correlation not only with ESR but also with the physical status of the patients, and that a large proportion of the CD4+,CD57+ T cells had the capacity to produce IFNγ, strongly suggests that these CD4+,CD57+ T cells are involved in the immunopathogenesis of RA.