AIM--To investigate whether monocytes and neutrophils from patients with primary proliferative polycythaemia (PPP) exhibit increased expression of markers of cell activation and, if so, whether they are associated with the phagocytic activity of these cells and concentrations of circulating cytokines. METHODS--Expression of CD11b, CD14, CD18, and CD64 on monocytes and neutrophils was assessed by flow cytometry. Phagocytosis was analysed using immunoglobulin opsonised Escherichia coli. Serum concentrations of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), granulocyte-macrophage CSF (GM-CSF) and macrophage CSF (M-CSF) were determined by bioassays, and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). RESULTS--Patients with PPP (n = 18), when compared with normal subjects (n = 10), had increased percentages of CD64+ monocytes (52% v 36%) and neutrophils (42% v 11%) and of CD14+ neutrophils (36% v 18%). Monocytes from patients with PPP exhibited increased expression of CD64 (47 v 26) and of CD11b (65 v 36). These abnormalities were not found in patients with secondary (n = 8) or apparent (n = 13) polycythaemia. The percentage of neutrophils undergoing phagocytosis was higher in patients with PPP (mean 64%; n = 6) than in normal subjects (mean 42%; n = 5). G-CSF, GM-CSF and IFN-gamma concentrations in patients' serum samples were comparable with normal; M-CSF was not detected in any of the samples. There was no correlation between cytokine concentrations and the expression of CD11b, CD14, CD18, and CD64 on patients' phagocytes. CONCLUSIONS--Increased expression of CD11b and CD64 by monocytes, increased percentages of CD14+ and CD64+ neutrophils and the high phagocytic activity of neutrophils suggests that these cells are activated in vivo in patients with PPP. The phenotypic changes of PPP phagocytes were not associated with increased concentrations of circulating cytokines and probably reflect intrinsic abnormalities within the neoplastic PPP clone.
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