Jejunal biopsy was performed on control subjects and patients with treated and untreated coeliac disease. Monoclonal antibodies to T lymphocyte surface markers were used to quantify T cell phenotypic subsets in the jejunal mucosa. The patients with untreated coeliac disease had significantly more of both suppressor/cytotoxic and helper/inducer T cells in the surface epithelium than either the control subjects or the treated patients. Serial jejunal biopsy specimens were taken from five treated coeliac patients for six hours after a gluten challenge. In four of these five infiltration of the surface epithelium by both T cell phenotypes, together with deterioration in the villus architecture, had occurred both within two hours of having started the challenge. This suggests that T lymphocytes may have a role in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease.
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