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Arthritis Rheumatol. 2015 Apr;67(4):988-99. doi: 10.1002/art.39020.

Circulating follicular helper-like T cells in systemic lupus erythematosus: association with disease activity.

Author information

1
Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To assess circulating follicular helper T (Tfh)-like CD4+ T cells in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and determine their relationship to disease activity.

METHODS:

Blood samples from patients with SLE, as well as blood samples from patients with Behçet's disease (BD) and healthy individuals as controls, were analyzed. In all samples, circulating Tfh-like cells were enumerated by flow cytometry, using, as markers, expression of CXCR5, inducible T cell costimulator (ICOS), and programmed death 1 (PD-1) protein, as well as secretion of interleukin-21 (IL-21). The frequency of circulating Tfh-like cells was compared to that of circulating plasmablasts (CD19+IgD-CD38+). In addition, the possible association of circulating Tfh-like cells with the SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) was evaluated.

RESULTS:

The subset of circulating Tfh-like T cells, identified as CXCR5(high) ICOS(high) PD-1(high) , was expanded in the blood of SLE patients compared to controls. Circulating Tfh-like cells were found to produce IL-21 and had lower expression of CCR7 as compared to that in circulating CXCR5(high) central memory T cells, thereby enabling their distinction. Expression of PD-1, but not ICOS or CXCR5, was significantly elevated in circulating Tfh-like cells from SLE patients compared to controls. PD-1 expression among CXCR5(high) circulating Tfh-like cells correlated with the SLEDAI, frequency of circulating plasmablasts, and anti-double-stranded DNA antibody positivity, but not with disease duration or past organ injury; rather, this cell profile appeared to be a reflection of current active disease.

CONCLUSION:

Circulating Tfh-like cells are associated with disease activity in SLE, suggesting that their presence indicates abnormal homeostasis of T cell-B cell collaboration, with a causal relationship that is central to disease pathogenesis. These findings also suggest that circulating Tfh-like cells provide a surrogate for aberrant germinal center activity in SLE, and that their PD-1 expression offers a tool for measuring disease activity and monitoring the response to therapies.

PMID:
25581113
PMCID:
PMC4450082
DOI:
10.1002/art.39020
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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