, Volume 239, Issue 2, pp 82-88

Thymus cells in myasthenia gravis: a two-colour flow cytometric analysis of lymphocytes in the thymus and thymoma

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Summary

The thymus in patients with myasthenia gravis has germinal centres and the thymic lymphocytes spontaneously produce anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody in vitro. This suggests indirectly that the myasthenic thymus contains mature T and B cells that are autoreactive. We report a two colour flow cytometric analysis of the surface antigen phenotype of lymphocytes in the thymus and in thymoma in 24 patients and in 14 normal thymuses. The results show a decline in the proportion of double positive immature thymocytes with age. This process seems to be partially disrupted in patients with myasthenia gravis. In addition titres of anti-acetylcholine receptor antibody were positively correlated with the proportion of mature single positive T cells and non-T DR positive cells.