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Journal of Clinical Investigation


Studies using cultured cells have shown that gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) induces the expression of Fc gamma RI (the type I Fc receptor for IgG) on human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) and greatly increases the number of these receptors on human monocytes. Administration of rIFN-gamma in vivo also causes enhanced Fc gamma RI expression on these cell populations. Because streptococcal antigens are potent inducers of IFN-gamma in vitro, we postulated that IFN-gamma would be produced endogenously in vivo in patients with streptococcal infections. Such production of IFN-gamma in vivo, even at low levels, might be expected to induce the expression of Fc gamma RI on monocytes and neutrophils. To evaluate this possibility, we used monoclonal antibody 32 (mAb 32), which is specific for Fc gamma RI, to quantitate the expression of this receptor on human peripheral blood cells. We measured the binding of mAb 32 to monocytes and PMNs isolated from healthy donors and from patients with group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal (GABHS) pharyngitis. PMNs from healthy donors (n = 12) had 700 +/- 600 (mean +/- SD) mAb 32 binding sites. Patients with pharyngitis and negative throat culture for GABHS (n = 11) had 2,100 +/- 1,600 sites on their PMNs. In contrast, the PMNs from patients with documented GABHS pharyngitis (n = 12) had 11,600 +/- 7,500 mAb 32 binding sites on their surface. There was a similar change in the expression of Fc gamma RI on monocytes, with control monocytes having a mean of 19,900 +/- 3,200 mAb 32 binding sites per cell and the GABHS-positive monocytes having 47,500 +/- 21,400 sites. The GABHS-negative throat culture group had a slightly elevated number of Fc gamma RI with a mean of 28,200 +/- 8,400 sites. 10 patients with documented urinary tract infections and three patients with uncomplicated pyelonephritis had no elevation in Fc gamma RI expression. These studies demonstrate that a localized group A streptococcal infection can cause systemic activation of the entire circulating pool of phagocytes, and suggest that a similar level of activation is uncommon in localized gram-negative infections of the urinary tract.