IL-21 promotes lupus-like disease in chronic graft-versus-host disease through both CD4 T cell- and B cell-intrinsic mechanisms.
ABSTRACT T cell-driven B cell hyperactivity plays an essential role in driving autoimmune disease development in systemic lupus erythematosus. IL-21 is a member of the type I cytokine family with pleiotropic activities. It regulates B cell differentiation and function, promotes T follicular helper (T(FH)) cell and Th17 cell differentiation, and downregulates the induction of T regulatory cells. Although IL-21 has been implicated in systemic lupus erythematosus, the relative importance of IL-21R signaling in CD4(+) T cells versus B cells is not clear. To address this question, we took advantage of two induced models of lupus-like chronic graft-versus-host disease by using wild-type or IL-21R(-/-) mice as donors in the parent-into-F1 model and as hosts in the Bm12→B6 model. We show that IL-21R expression on donor CD4(+) T cells is essential for sustaining T(FH) cell number and subsequent help for B cells, resulting in autoantibody production and more severe lupus-like renal disease, but it does not alter the balance of Th17 cells and regulatory T cells. In contrast, IL-21R signaling on B cells is critical for the induction and maintenance of germinal centers, plasma cell differentiation, autoantibody production, and the development of renal disease. These results demonstrate that IL-21 promotes autoimmunity in chronic graft-versus-host disease through both CD4(+) T cell- and B cell-intrinsic mechanisms and suggest that IL-21 blockade may attenuate B cell hyperactivity, as well as the aberrant T(FH) cell pathway that contributes to lupus pathogenesis.
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ABSTRACT: To observe the proportion of peripheral T follicular helper (Tfh) cells in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to assess the role of steroids on Tfh cells from SLE patients. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 42 SLE patients and 22 matched healthy subjects were collected to assess proportions of circulating CXCR5(+)PD1(+)/CD4(+) T cells (Tfh), CD4(+)CCR6(+) T cells (Th17-like) and CD19(+)CD138(+) plasma cells by flow cytometry. 8 of the patients had their blood redrawn within one week after receiving methylprednisolone pulse treatment. Disease activity was evaluated by SLE disease activity index. To test the effect of IL-21 and corticosteroids on Tfh cells in vitro, PBMCs harvested from another 15 SLE patients were cultured with medium, IL-21, or IL-21+ dexamethasone for 24 hours and 72 hours. PBMCs from an independent 23 SLE patients were cultured with different concentrations of dexamethasone for 24 hours. Compared to normal controls, percentages of circulating Tfh cells, but not Th17 cells, were elevated in SLE patients and correlated with disease activity. Proportions of Tfh cells in SLE patients were positively correlated with those of plasma cells and serum levels of antinuclear antibodies. After methylprednisolone pulse treatment, both percentages and absolute numbers of circulating Tfh cells were significantly decreased. In vitro cultures showed an increase of Tfh cell proportion after IL-21 stimulation that was totally abolished by the addition of dexamethasone. Both 0.5 and 1 µM dexamethasone decreased Tfh cells dose dependently (overall p = 0.013). We demonstrated that elevated circulating Tfh cell proportions in SLE patients correlated with their disease activities, and circulating levels of plasma cells and ANA. Corticosteroids treatment down-regulated aberrant circulating Tfh cell proportions both in vivo and in vitro, making Tfh cells a new treatment target for SLE patients.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(12):e51982. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: T follicular helper (Tfh) cells can mediate humoral immune responses and augment autoimmunity, whereas the role of Tfh cells on regulatory B (B10) cells in autoimmunity diseases is not clear. Here, we investigated the percentages of Tfh cells and B10 cells in lupus-prone MRL/Mp-lpr/lpr (MRL/lpr) mice and examined the effects and mechanism of Tfh cell-derived interleukin-21 (IL-21) on IL-10 production during the differentiation of B10 cells. Both Tfh cells and B10 cells were expanded in spleens of MRL/lpr mice. In addition, a positive correlation between the proportions of Tfh cells and B10 cells was observed. Tfh cell-derived IL-21 from MRL/lpr mice could promote IL-10 production during the differentiation of B10 cells. Importantly, neutralization of IL-21 inhibited IL-10 production and expansion of B10 cells both in vitro and in vivo. IL-21 induced IL-10 production via activation of phosphorylated signal transduction and activator of transcription 3 (p-STAT3). Inhibition of p-STAT3 effectively blocked IL-10 production during the differentiation of B10 cells. Moreover, IL-21-induced IL-10 exerted a regulatory function by inhibiting the proliferation of T cells. These data suggest that Tfh cells not only mediate humoral immune responses and augment autoimmunity but also play a broader role in immune regulatory actions via the induction of IL-10 production.PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(4):e62855. · 3.73 Impact Factor