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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 17;107(33):14751-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003852107. Epub 2010 Aug 2.

Th17 plasticity in human autoimmune arthritis is driven by the inflammatory environment.

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  • 1Rheumatology Unit, University College London Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 1EH, United Kingdom. K.Nistala@ich.ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

In several murine models of autoimmune arthritis, Th17 cells are the dominant initiators of inflammation. In human arthritis the majority of IL-17-secreting cells within the joint express a cytokine phenotype intermediate between Th17 and Th1. Here we show that Th17/1 cells from the joints of children with inflammatory arthritis express high levels of both Th17 and Th1 lineage-specific transcription factors, RORC2 and T-bet. Modeling the generation of Th17/1 in vitro, we show that Th17 cells "convert" to Th17/1 under conditions that mimic the disease site, namely low TGFbeta and high IL-12 levels, whereas Th1 cells cannot convert to Th17. Th17/1 cells from the inflamed joint share T-cell receptor (TCR) clonality with Th17 cells, suggesting a shared clonal origin between Th17 and Th17/1 cells in arthritis. Using CD161, a lectin-like receptor that is a marker of human Th17, we show synovial Th17 and Th17/1 cells, and unexpectedly, a large proportion of Th1 cells express CD161. We provide evidence to support a Th17 origin for Th1 cells expressing CD161. In vitro, Th17 cells that convert to a Th1 phenotype maintain CD161 expression. In the joint CD161+ Th1 cells share features with Th17 cells, with shared TCR clonality, expression of RORC2 and CCR6 and response to IL-23, although they are IL-17 negative. We propose that the Th17 phenotype may be unstable and that Th17 cells may convert to Th17/1 and Th1 cells in human arthritis. Therefore therapies targeting the induction of Th17 cells could also attenuate Th17/1 and Th1 effector populations within the inflamed joint.

PMID:
20679229
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2930428
Free PMC Article

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