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To investigate the extent to which the immune system is influenced in patients with previous malignant hypertension.Twenty-three patients with malignant hypertension (fundus hypertonicus grades III or IV) in the Gothenburg area were studied over a 3-year period. After treatment had been instituted they were investigated to establish the function of the cellular immune system (number of T lymphocytes and the proliferative response to T-cell mitogens), human leucocyte antigens A, B and C and frequency of autoantibodies.The numbers of T lymphocytes were quantified as erythrocyte rosettes. Lymphocyte-stimulation tests were carried out using the T-cell mitogens phytohaemagglutinin and concanavalin-A. Autoantibodies were determined with immunoassay techniques and leucocyte A, B and C antigens with a lymphocytotoxicity test.The frequency of T lymphocytes and their baseline thymidine incorporation were significantly depressed in patients with previously malignant hypertension compared with control subjects. The group with malignant hypertension also had a decreased proliferative response to concanavalin-A but not to phytohaemagglutinin, and they had an increased frequency of antinuclear antibodies. Human leucocyte antigen B15 tended to occur more frequently in patients with malignant and non-malignant hypertension than in control subjects, especially if a family history of hypertension was taken into consideration.The results from the present study indicate that immune mechanisms are involved in malignant hypertension, either secondary to the vascular damage or as a primary abnormality.