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The effect of Rituximab treatment on T cells


Rituximab is a therapeutic anti-CD20 antibody used for in vivo depletion of B cells.

However, the mechanisms of action are not fully understood because clinical responses do not always correlate with the extent and duration of B cell depletion.


This study was conducted to examine the effect of B cell depletion on peripheral T cells from rheumatoid arthritis patients.


RA patients received rituximab (1000 mg). Peripheral blood samples were collected at baseline and at 30, 90 and 180 days postinfusion. The phenotype of T cell subsets of peripheral blood from RA patients were examined by cytometry and cytokine production was determined by ELISA.


According to our previous results, peripheral B cell depletion was fully effective by 30 days. No changes in the percentage of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+ and NK cells were found. There was a comparative progressive diminution of CD8+CD45RO+ cells with recovery starting at 180 days. DAS28 significantly correlated with CD8+CD45RO+ cells. Since CD8+CD45RO+ diminution was coincident with the clinical response measured as DAS28, we investigated whether IL-15 could be responsible for this population changes in rheumatoid arthritis patients. As expected there was significant levels of IL-15 in the serum RA patients (110 ± 31 pg/ml) compared to healthy donors (< 10 pg/ml). Rituximab treatment decreased IL-15 levels in serum from rheumatoid arthritis patients. Although, no significant correlation was observed between IL-15 in the serum and CD8+CD45RO+ cells, levels of IL-15 trans-presented on the surface of neutrophils from RA patients significantly correlated with CD8+CD45RO+ (p<0.01) cells and CD8+CD45RO+/RA+ ratio (p<0.001).


This study demonstrates that rituximab treatment is able to reduce IL-15 levels. This reduction could be responsible for tthe CD45RO+ changes during the follow-up.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Diaz-Torné, C., Ortiz, M.A., Zamora, C. et al. The effect of Rituximab treatment on T cells. J Transl Med 8 (Suppl 1), P66 (2010).

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