Selective depletion of CD14+ CD16+ monocytes by glucocorticoid therapy

Clin Exp Immunol. 1998 Jun;112(3):501-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2249.1998.00617.x.


Glucocorticoids (GC) are potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive agents that act on many cells of the body, including monocytes. Here we show that a 5-day course of high dose GC therapy differentially affected the CD14++ and the CD14+ CD16+ monocyte subpopulations in 10 patients treated for multiple sclerosis. While the classical (CD14++) monocytes exhibited a substantial increase from 495 +/- 132 to 755 +/- 337 cells/microl, the CD14+ CD16+ monocytes responded with a pronounced decrease from 36 +/- 15 to 2 +/- 3 cells/microl (P < 0.001). In 4/10 patients the CD14+ CD16+ monocytes fell below detection limits (<0.2 cells/microl). This observation was confirmed when the CD14+ CD16+ monocytes were identified by virtue of their low CD33 expression as these cells decreased as well. After discontinuation of GC therapy the CD14+ CD16+ monocytes reappeared and reached normal levels after 1 week. The profound depletion of CD14+ CD16+ monocytes by GC as described here is a novel effect of GC action in vivo and may contribute to GC-mediated immunosuppression. Determination of the number of this monocyte subset may also serve to monitor the effectiveness of GC therapy in patients requiring immunosuppressive treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / blood*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Receptors, IgG