Increased frequency of circulating IL-21 producing Th-cells in patients with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA).
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INTRODUCTION: The present study aimed to explore a possible role for IL-21 producing Th-cells in the immunopathogenesis of granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA). METHODS: Peripheral blood from 42 GPA patients in remission and 29 age-matched healthy controls (HCs) were stimulated in vitro, and the frequencies of IL-21 producing Th-cells were determined by flow cytometry. Since Th17-cells produce a low level of IL-21, IL-17 was also included in the analysis. Given that IL-21 is a hallmark cytokine for T follicular helper cells (T(FH)), we next evaluated the expression of their key transcription factor BCL-6 by RT-PCR and flow cytometry. To investigate the effect of IL-21 on autoantibody-production, PBMCs from GPA patients were stimulated in vitro with BAFF/IL-21 and total IgG and ANCA levels were measured in supernatants. In addition, the expression of IL-21-receptor on B-cells was analyzed. RESULTS: Percentages of IL-21 producing Th-cells were significantly elevated in GPA-patients compared to HCs, and were restricted to ANCA-positive patients. The expression of BCL-6 was significantly higher in ANCA-positive GPA-patients, as compared with ANCA-negative patients and HCs. IL-21 enhanced the production of IgG and ANCA in vitro in stimulated PBMCs from GPA patients. No difference was found in the expression of the IL-21-receptor on B-cells between ANCA-negative patients, ANCA-positive patients, and HCs. CONCLUSION: The increased frequency of circulating IL-21 producing Th-cells in ANCA-positive GPA patients and the stimulating capacity of IL-21 on ANCA-production suggest a role for these cells in the immunopathogenesis of GPA. Blockade of IL-21 could constitute a new therapeutic strategy for GPA.
AuthorsAbdulahad, WH; Lepse, N; Stegeman, CA; Huitema, MG; Doornbos-van der Meer, B; Tadema, H; Rutgers, A; Limburg, PC; Kallenberg, CG; Heeringa, P
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