Kawasaki disease (KD) is an acute multisystem vasculitis of unknown etiology that is associated with marked activation of T cells and monocyte/macrophages. Using a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique, we recently found that the acute phase of KD is associated with the expansion of T cells expressing the V beta 2 and V beta 8.1 gene segments. In the present work, we used a newly developed anti-V beta 2 monoclonal antibody (mAb) and studied a new group of KD patients to extend our previous PCR results. Immunofluorescence analysis confirmed that V beta 2-bearing T cells are selectively increased in patients with acute KD. The increase occurred primarily in the CD4 T cell subset. The percentages of V beta 2+ T cells as determined by mAb reactivity and flow cytometry correlated linearly with V beta expression as quantitated by PCR. However, T cells from acute KD patients appeared to express proportionately higher levels of V beta 2 transcripts per cell as compared with healthy controls or convalescent KD patients. Sequence analysis of T cell receptor beta chain genes of V beta 2 and V beta 8.1 expressing T cells from acute KD patients showed extensive junctional region diversity. These data showing polyclonal expansion of V beta 2+ and V beta 8+ T cells in acute KD provide additional insight into the immunopathogenesis of this disease.

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