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Open Access Open Badges Case report

Effect of splenectomy on type-1/type-2 cytokine gene expression in a patient with adult idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)

Fotios P Panitsas and Athanasia Mouzaki*

Author Affiliations

Hematology & Transfusion Medicine, Medical School, University of Patras, Patras, Greece

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BMC Blood Disorders 2004, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2326-4-4

Published: 18 October 2004



In view of clinical observations and laboratory results that support a central role of the spleen in idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) pathophysiology, we studied the effect of splenectomy on type-1 and type-2 cytokine gene expression in an adult ITP case, refractory to conservative treatment.

Case presentation

The patient was subjected to splenectomy 9 months after the diagnosis with complete response, attaining platelet counts over 150 × 106/L within 10 days after the operation. Two consecutive blood samples were obtained from the patient, 3 and 7 months after the splenectomy for the purposes of this study. A control group consisted of 11 healthy adults. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were prepared from each blood sample and cultured in vitro for 8 h with the addition of the mitogens phorbol myristate acetate and ionomycin. Total cellular RNA extracted from 106 cells was submitted to semiquantitave reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for the amplification of IL-2, IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10 metagraphs. The PCR products were run on ethidium-stained agarose gels, photographed and quantified by densitometry.

A steep decrease of type-1 cytokine expression (IL-2, IFN-γ) and their calculated sum expressing Th1 activity was observed at 7 months post-splenectomy compared to 3 months post-splenectomy, in parallel with a rise of platelet count from 190 × 106/L to 265 × 106/L. The change of type-2 cytokine expression (IL-4, IL-5, IL-10) was slight and the Th2 activity (IL-4+IL-5) remained largely unchanged. The Th1/Th2 ratio, that reflects the pathogenic disease-specific T-cell immune deviation, was accordingly reduced 7 months post-splenectomy (Th1/Th2 = 1.3) compared to 3 months (Th1/Th2 = 3.5).


The reduction of the Th1/Th2 cytokine ratio that was observed over time after splenectomy was accompanied by full clinical remission. Nevertheless, the persistence of a type-1 polarization, even after several months following spleen removal, is suggestive of a more basic abnormality of the immune function in these patients.