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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012 Jul;51(7):1188-97. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kes034. Epub 2012 Mar 24.

Aberrant expression of the negative costimulator PD-1 on T cells in granulomatosis with polyangiitis.

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Department of Nephrology, University Duisburg-Essen, Hufelandstr. 55, 45122 Essen, Germany.



Persistent T-cell activation is frequently observed in granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, formerly known as Wegener's granulomatosis). T-cell activation is usually balanced by negative costimulatory molecules. The negative costimulator programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) and its relevance to T-cell immunity have not been studied so far in GPA. Thus it is the aim of the study to characterize the role of PD-1 in GPA.


Thirty-two patients suffering from GPA and 19 age-matched healthy controls (HCs) were enrolled. T-lymphocyte subsets from peripheral blood were analysed by flow cytometry for the expression of PD-1. The frequency of memory T cells and T cells producing pro-inflammatory cytokines was determined. Renal biopsies from GPA patients were stained for CD3 and PD-1.


PD-1 expression was increased on T-helper cells (Th cells) from GPA patients as compared with HCs. In addition, parameters of persistent T-cell activation and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines were positively associated with numbers of PD-1(+) Th cells in patients but not in HCs. Latent infection with CMV seemed to enhance PD-1 expression on CD4(+) and CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells. Interestingly, expression of PD-1 on CD4(+)CD25(+)T cells was inversely correlated with relapse rate. Importantly, lesional T cells were mostly lacking PD-1.


The expression of the negative costimulator PD-1 is altered in GPA and might counterbalance persistent T-cell activation.

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