Background & aims: Although autoimmunity may be involved in some cases of pancreatitis, the mechanism is still unknown. To clarify this, we studied serum autoantibodies, subsets of lymphocytes, and the Th1/Th2 balance of cellular immune responses in patients with autoimmune-related pancreatitis (AIP).
Methods: Seventeen patients with AIP (8 men and 9 women; age, 53.2 +/- 13.0 years) were studied. Autoantibodies including antilactoferrin (ALF) or carbonic anhydrase II antibody (ACA-II) were examined using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or the indirect fluorescein antibody method. Intracellular cytokines (interferon gamma and interleukin 4) and subtypes of peripheral blood lymphocytes were examined by flow cytometry and ELISA.
Results: More than one autoantibody was observed in all 17 patients. Serum antinuclear antibody was detected in 13 of 17 patients, ALF antibody in 13, ACA-II antibody in 10, rheumatoid factor in 5, and anti-smooth muscle antibody in 3, but antimitochondrial antibody in none. The serum levels of ACA-II and LF antibody were not correlated. HLA-DR(+)CD8(+) and HLA-DR(+)CD4(+) cells were significantly increased in peripheral blood (P < 0.05). CD4(+) cells producing interferon gamma and the secreted levels were significantly increased compared with those in controls (P < 0.05), but interleukin 4 was not increased.
Conclusions: An autoimmune mechanism against CA-II or LF, and Th1-type immune response, may be involved in AIP.