The objective of our study was to undertake a systematic analysis of the T-cell response to the proteoglycan versican G1-globular domain (VG1) in ankylosing spondylitis (AS) as immunity to VG1 in mice can induce a pathology closely resembling AS. Peripheral blood lymphocytes from 36 AS patients and 33 healthy controls were incubated with recombinant human VG1 in culture for 6 h. T-cell responses were assessed by FACS analyses using mAb against surface expression of the activation marker CD69 and against the intracellular cytokines interferon (IFN)-gamma, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha. T cells activated by exposure to versican were determined by assessing the percentage of CD4+ or CD8+ T cells that were CD69/cytokine double-positive cells as compared to isotype control staining. In the AS patients, exposure to VG1 resulted in increased expression by CD4+ T cells of IFN-gamma in 55.6% of patients and of TNF-alpha in 52.8% of patients. In the controls, only 36.4% of subjects demonstrated an IFN-gamma response and 36.4% demonstrated a TNF-alpha response (P value 0.148, 0.227, respectively). With respect to CD8+ T-cell responses, versican stimulation enhanced IFN-gamma expression in 44.4% of AS patients and 39.4% of controls, and enhanced TNF-alpha response in 50.0% of AS patients and 39.4% of controls (P value 0.620, 0.327, respectively). Although, there was no statistically significant difference in the magnitude of the IFN-γ or TNF secretion by CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells between AS and controls, our results demonstrate an enhanced T-cell response to VG1 in AS.