Frequencies of proliferating and cytotoxic lymphocytes from liver biopsy samples and peripheral blood of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients and control subjects were monitored by limiting dilution analysis. Precursor frequencies of proliferating T lymphocytes were not significantly different in the liver and peripheral blood compartments of patients and controls. Moreover, similar frequencies of natural killer cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes were observed in the peripheral blood of patients and controls. A higher frequency of cytotoxic T cells (1 of 22) compared to NK cells (1 of 306) was observed in liver tissues of CHB patients. Dual colour flow cytometric analysis revealed the presence of both CD4 HLA-DR and CD8 HLA-DR T cells in the liver tissues. These results suggest that in livers of CHB patients not only activated CD8 T cells but also activated CD4 T cells may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of chronic hepatitis B.


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