Background: In 1968 in western Japan, polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated “Kanemi rice oil” was used in cooking, causing food poisoning in many people. More than 50 years have passed since the Yusho incident, and although inflammatory disorders such as suppuration have been observed in Yusho patients, the etiology of this inflammation susceptibility remains obscure. Objectives: To investigate the mechanisms of susceptibility to inflammation in Yusho patients, peripheral immune cell fractions and concentrations of inflammatory cytokines were evaluated in blood samples collected from both Yusho patients and age-matched healthy subjects undergoing medical examination in Nagasaki. Methods: To exclude diagnostic uncertainty, serum levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), polychlorinated quarterphenyl (PCQ), and polychlorinated dibenzofuran (PCDF) were measured. Immune cell (e.g. natural killer and regulatory T cell) populations were analyzed by flow cytometry. Serum cytokines involved in immune cell activation were measured by ELISA. Results: The relative proportion of natural killer cells was higher in Yusho patients than in healthy subjects, while the proportion of regulatory T cells did not differ between groups. Serum concentrations of IL-36 and IFN-γ were significantly lower in Yusho patients than in healthy subjects. Conversely, serum cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4), which is a cytokine related to activated NK cells, was higher in Yusho patients than in healthy subjects and was positively correlated with PCDF blood levels. Conclusion: Increased numbers of NK cells in Yusho patients suggests that the innate immune response has been activated in Yusho patients. The seemingly paradoxical results for CTLA-4 and IFN-γ may reflect counterbalancing mechanisms preventing excessive NK cell activation. This dysregulation of innate immunity might contribute to the inflammation observed in Yusho patients.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Science(all)