CD8 lymphocyte subsets in active polymyalgia rheumatica: comparison with elderly-onset and adult rheumatoid arthritis and influence of prednisone therapy

Br J Rheumatol. 1996 Jul;35(7):642-8. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/35.7.642.


The aim of this study was to evaluate CD8 lymphocyte subsets in active polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), to determine whether low percentages of CD8+ cells could be used to differentiate PMR from elderly-onset (EORA) and adult rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to investigate the effects of prednisone on CD8 lymphocyte subsets. A significant reduction of percentages and absolute numbers of CD8bright+ cells was observed in patients with active PMR. Both CD8bright+, CD57- and CD8bright+, CD57+ subsets were significantly reduced. Reduced percentages of CD8+ cells were observed in 55% of patients with active PMR/giant cell arteritis (GCA), in 23% with EORA and in 44% with adult RA. Prednisone therapy in PMR patients, after only 1 week, increased the lymphocyte count and the absolute numbers of lymphocyte subsets significantly. However, the percentages of CD8bright+ cells remained persistently low for the 2 yr study period in 80% of the patients with low pre-treatment levels. Our results demonstrate that CD8 cell percentage is a poor epidemiological discriminator for PMR diagnosis. Notwithstanding the rise in absolute numbers of CD8 cell subsets induced by prednisone, the persistently low percentages of CD8+ cells in a group of PMR patients indicate an abnormality connected with the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • CD4 Antigens / analysis
  • CD57 Antigens / analysis
  • CD8 Antigens / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / drug therapy*
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / immunology*
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / pathology
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies


  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD57 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Prednisone