Atopy is associated with diminished cell-mediated immunity and increased amounts of IgE, both of which may be caused by imbalances of T lymphocyte subsets.
We compared the composition of highly purified peripheral-blood T cells of fifteen atopic asthmatics with ten non-atopic control subjects. Each subject was examined on five separate occasions. Indirect immunofluorescence using monoclonal antibodies was used to define T cell subsets. We examined the proportion of T cells with T3 (most T cells), T4 (helper/inducer), T8 (suppressor/cytotoxic), M1 (natural killer), and Ia (activated T cells) surface antigens. Blood was obtained at the same time of day to eliminate the effects of circadian rhythm. Subjects were taking no medications.
We found no difference between the groups of the percentage of T cells with T4, T8, M1, and Ia antigens, nor the ratio of T4+ (helper) to T8+ (suppressor) cells. T3 percent was slightly (94.3 vs 92.5%) higher in the atopic group. We conclude that atopic asthma is not associated with imbalances of peripheral-blood T cell subsets.