Lymphocyte profiles in mediastinal lymph nodes may reflect the immune status of patients with sarcoidosis. Endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) is useful for the diagnosis of diseases with mediastinal lymphadenopathy including sarcoidosis. The purpose of this study was to determine lymphocyte profiles of lymph nodes in sarcoidosis by analyzing EBUS-TBNA samples. We prepared single cell suspensions from EBUS-TBNA samples of mediastinal lymph nodes from patients with sarcoidosis or lung cancer and analyzed surface markers (CD3, CD4, CD8, CD19, CD25) and FoxP3 expression in the resultant lymphocytes using flow cytometry. We studied 26 patients with sarcoidosis and 16 with lung cancer with mediastinal lymph node metastases. In sarcoidosis, the CD4/CD8 ratio was significantly more elevated in lymph nodes than in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (P<0.001), although both were strongly correlated. The CD4/CD8 ratio was significantly higher in stage I than in stage II both in the BAL fluid and lymph nodes. When compared with lung cancer lymph node metastasis, the CD4/CD8 ratio was significantly higher in sarcoidosis, whereas the CD3/CD19 ratio was significantly higher in lung cancer. The proportion of regulatory T cells (CD4+, CD25+, FoxP3 high) did not differ between sarcoidosis and lung cancer samples. Lymphocyte profiles in mediastinal lymphadenopathy can be analyzed by flow cytometry of EBUS-TBNA samples. These findings might help elucidate the immunopathology of sarcoidosis.
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