The expression of human leukocyte antigen-DR and CD25 on circulating T cells in cutaneous lupus erythematosus and correlation with disease activity

Exp Dermatol. 2005 Jun;14(6):454-9. doi: 10.1111/j.0906-6705.2005.00301.x.


Background: Lupus erythematosus (LE) is a chronic autoimmune disease with a broad clinical spectrum reaching from primarily cutaneous manifestations [cutaneous LE (CLE)] up to systemic disease [systemic LE (SLE)]. In patients with SLE, the expression of activation markers on circulating T cells reflects disease activity. Here, we investigated whether this also holds true for patients with CLE.

Patients and methods: The expression of the activation markers human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR and CD25 on circulating T lymphocytes was measured by flow cytometry in 24 patients suffering from different types of active CLE. Simultaneously, the disease activity was assessed clinically using a CLE activity index. Eighteen healthy donors were analyzed for control purposes.

Results: HLA-DR was expressed on a significantly elevated percentage of both CD4+ and CD8+ circulating T cells in active CLE patients when compared with healthy controls. The percentage of HLA-DR-expressing T lymphocytes closely correlated with the disease activity. Interestingly, in disseminated scarring chronic discoid LE, a significantly increased percentage of CD25+ cells was observed only in the subset of skin-homing cutaneous lymphocyte antigen (CLA)+CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

Conclusion: Our results provide evidence that activation markers on peripheral blood T cells might help to objectively assess the disease activity in CLE. Furthermore, a significant population of CD25+CLA+CD8+ T cells can only be detected in a subgroup of patients with disseminated scarring CLE and might reflect the systemic expansion of activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes involved in destruction of epidermal tissue.

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HLA-DR Antigens / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / blood*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / pathology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*


  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2