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J Immunol. 2009 Jul 15;183(2):841-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0802046. Epub 2009 Jun 19.

Prednisolone treatment induces tolerogenic dendritic cells and a regulatory milieu in myasthenia gravis patients.

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Department of General Neurology and Neurodegenerative Disorders, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Tübingen University Hospital, Germany.


FOXP3-expressing naturally occurring CD4(+)CD25(high) T regulatory cells (Treg) are relevant in the control of autoimmunity, and a defect in this cell population has been observed in several human autoimmune diseases. We hypothesized that altered functions of peripheral Treg cells might play a role in the immunopathogenesis of myasthenia gravis, a T cell-dependent autoimmune disease characterized by the presence of pathogenic autoantibodies specific for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. We report in this study a significant decrease in the in vitro suppressive function of peripheral Treg cells isolated from myasthenia patients in comparison to those from healthy donors. Interestingly, Treg cells from prednisolone-treated myasthenia gravis patients showed an improved suppressive function compared with untreated patients, suggesting that prednisolone may play a role in the control of the peripheral regulatory network. Indeed, prednisolone treatment prevents LPS-induced maturation of monocyte-derived dendritic cells by hampering the up-regulation of costimulatory molecules and by limiting secretion of IL-12 and IL-23, and enhancing IL-10. In addition, CD4(+) T cells cultured in the presence of such tolerogenic dendritic cells are hyporesponsive and can suppress autologous CD4(+) T cell proliferation. The results shown in this study indicate that prednisolone treatment promotes an environment that favors immune regulation rather than inflammation.

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