Normal subjects given 60 mg of prednisone orally at 8:00 a.m. developed a transient lymphopenia at 2:00 p.m. To define the populations of lymphocytes affected the number and type of lymphocytes in the peripheral blood were assayed. "Late" and "early" spontaneous sheep red blood cell rosettes were used as markers for thymus-derived (T) lymphocytes and one of its subpopulations, respectively. Receptors for aggregated gammaglobulin and complement identified bursal-equivalent or bone marrow-derived (B) lymphocytes and one of its subpopulations, respectively. 6 h after administration of 60 mg of prednisone, the blood samples showed a decrease in proportion of T cells from 69.2 +/- 2.1% to 55.9 +/- 2.8% (average +/- SE) and an increase in B-cell proportion from 21.3 +/- 2.0% to 44.8 +/- 4.1%. The changes of "early" rosettes and complement receptor lymphocytes also paralleled these. In all cases the absolute numbers of T cells and of B cells were decreased by prednisone. The density gradient distribution of the lymphocytes did not change after prednisone. These data indicate that both T and B lymphocytes are affected by the prednisone but that the T cell lymphopenia was more pronounced. The lymphopenia might reflect either sequestration in the marrow and/or transient arrest of recirculation.
D T Yu, P J Clements, H E Paulus, J B Peter, J Levy, E V Barnett