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Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 Nov;72(11):1852-9. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201660. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

NKG2D stimulated T-cell autoreactivity in giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Innsbruck Medical University, , Innsbruck, Austria.



To investigate functional expression of NKG2D on CD4 and CD8 T-cells in patients with giant cell arteritis (GCA) and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR).


Peripheral blood was drawn from patients with GCA (n=16), PMR (n=78) and healthy controls (HC, n=64). Tissue samples were obtained from GCA patients and controls. Proliferation and cytokine production assays were performed using CFSE and intracellular IFN-γ or TNF-α staining, respectively, and flow cytometry analysis. Immunofluorescence and immunohistology were applied to analyse the presence of NKG2D-expressing T-cells and NKG2D-ligands in temporal arteries, respectively. mRNA levels of NKG2D-ligands were determined by RT-PCR.


In both GCA and PMR patients, NKG2D was preferentially expressed on senescent CD4CD28(-) and CD8CD28(-), as well as on CD8CD28 T-cells. Frequencies of senescent T-cells were increased in GCA and PMR patients compared to HC. In GCA tissue samples, infiltrating T-cells were predominately CD28(-). NKG2D expressing T-cells concentrated around the vasa vasorum of the adventitia. Antigenic stimulation induced rapid up-regulation of NKG2D on CD4CD28(-) and CD4CD28 T-cells, whereas TNF-α and interleukin-15 enhanced NKG2D expression on senescent CD4 and CD8 T-cells only. NKG2D cross-linkage augmented anti-CD3 triggered proliferation, IFN-γ and TNF-α production of CD8 T-cells. In CD4CD28(-) T-cells, NKG2D ligation resulted in increased IFN-γ production only. NKG2D ligands were expressed in temporal arteries from GCA patients, particularly in the adventitial and medial layers of affected vessels.


NKG2D is functionally expressed on CD4CD28(-) and CD8 T-cells in GCA and PMR. NKG2D-ligands are present in temporal arteries and may co-stimulate NKG2D expressing T-cells.


Giant Cell Arteritis; Polymyalgia Rheumatica; T Cells

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