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APMIS. 2015 Aug;123(8):659-66. doi: 10.1111/apm.12399. Epub 2015 Apr 27.

Elevated circulating Th17 and follicular helper CD4(+) T cells in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Immunology and Rheumatology, Tangdu Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China.


It remains not fully elucidated the potential functions of Th17 cells and follicular helper T (Tfh) cells and secreting cytokines in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and their association with disease activity. In this study, the frequencies of Th17 and Tfh cells were determined by flow cytometry, and the levels of interleukin (IL)-17, IL-21, and IL-22 were measured by ELISA in RA patients with different disease activities. The dynamic changes of cell subsets were also detected in response to disease-modify antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) therapy. The percentages of CD3(+) CD4(+) IL-17A(+) (Th17) cells and CD3(+) CD4(+) CXCR5(+) ICOS(high) (Tfh) cells, as well as the concentrations of IL-17, IL-21, and IL-22 were significantly elevated in RA patients than those in healthy individuals. Furthermore, Tfh cells, IL-21, and IL-22 in the serum was positively correlated with the values of disease activity score. Concentrations of IL-21 and IL-22 in the serum were remarkably reduced following the DMARDs therapies. Our data suggested that Th17 cells, Tfh cells as well as the secreting cytokines may be involved in the pathogenesis of RA. The frequency of circulating Tfh cells and the productions of IL-21 and IL-22 were associated with the disease activity of RA patients, and might be potential therapeutic targets for treatment of RA.


Rheumatoid arthritis; Th17 cells; follicular helper T cells; interleukin-21; interleukin-22

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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