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Immunobiology. 2009;214(5):392-402. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2008.10.004. Epub 2008 Dec 5.

The expressions of Toll-like receptor 9 and T-bet in circulating B and T cells in newly diagnosed, untreated systemic lupus erythematosus and correlations with disease activity and laboratory data in a Chinese population.

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Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Anhui Medical University, Anhui, PR China.


Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) plays a controversial role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). T-bet may be involved in the processes between the initiation of TLR9 activation and the antibodies' production. To clarify the paradox of TLR9, we investigated the intracellular expressions of TLR9 and T-bet in B and T cells in peripheral blood samples from 35 newly diagnosed, untreated patients with SLE and 16 healthy subjects by flow cytometry (FCM). And we collected the clinic laboratory data obtained from the same individual blood sample tested by FCM each time. And the correlations among the expression levels of the two proteins and SLE laboratory data were calculated. We found the percentages of B cells expressing TLR9 and T-bet and of T cells expressing TLR9 were significantly elevated in SLE patients when compared with healthy controls. There was a significantly negative relationship between the proportion of B cells expressing TLR9 and SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) score. The serum levels of anti-dsDNA antibody reversely correlated with the mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) of B cells co-expressing T-bet and TLR9. The serum levels of anti-C1q antibody significantly associated with the proportion of B cells expressing T-bet. Also, the serum levels of IgM and IgA antibodies both significantly correlated with TLR9 and T-bet expressions in T and B cells. According to the immunological pathway knowledge and the mutually verified associations, the following conclusions are made. Expressions of TLR9 and T-bet were increased in patients with SLE. TLR9 may have a role to play in protecting against lupus. And the increase of the co-expression of TLR9 and T-bet may be of benefit to the protective antibodies' production and pathogenic antibodies' decline, and could be regarded as a good sign for lupus demission and/or treatment.

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