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Keywords:

  • A1/Bax;
  • apoptosis;
  • Fas;
  • Kawasaki disease;
  • neutrophils

Circulating polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) are known to increase in number and are functionally activated in the acute phase of Kawasaki disease (KD). In the present study, we investigated whether the apoptosis of PMNs is deregulated in KD. When the isolated PMNs were cultured in vitro, the proportions of spontaneous apoptotic PMNs (annexin V+ cells and cells with fragmented DNA) were found to be significantly lower (P < 0·01) in the patients with KD (n = 25) than in the patients with a bacterial infection (n = 20) or a viral infection (n = 20), or in healthy children (n = 20). The proportion of circulating Fas-positive PMNs was also significantly lower (P < 0·01) in the acute KD patients than in the other groups. In the acute phase of KD, the proportion of spontaneous apoptotic PMNs showed a significant positive correlation (P < 0·01) with the proportions of circulating Fas-positive PMNs. Furthermore, the agonistic anti-Fas MoAb (CH-11) induced a significant increase in the proportion of apoptotic PMNs in the patients with a viral infection and healthy children, but not in either the patients with KD or the patients with a bacterial infection. In the intracellular expression of anti- and pro-apoptotic proteins, the A1/Bax ratio was significantly higher in acute KD than in the other groups. These findings indicate that PMN apoptosis is inhibited during the acute phase of KD and also suggest that both the resistance against the Fas-mediated death signal and the down-regulation of the mitochondrial apoptotic signalling pathway due to an altered balance of Bcl-2 protein expression are responsible for the delayed PMN apoptosis.