Recent evidence suggests that abnormalities involving Th17 lymphocytes are associated with the pathophysiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In addition, multifunctional T cells (MFT), i. e., those producing multiple cytokines simultaneously, are present in the inflammatory milieu and may be implicated in the autoimmune process observed in SLE. In the present study, we aimed to characterize the functional status of CD4+ T cells in SLE by simultaneously determining the concentration of IL-2, IFN-γ and IL-17 in lymphocyte cultures under exogenous and self-antigenic stimuli.
Patients and methods:
Eighteen patients with active disease, 18 with inactive disease, and 14 healthy controls had functional status of CD4+ T cells analyzed.
We found that SLE patients presented a decreased number of total CD4+ cells, an increased number of activated T cells, and an increased frequency of Th17 cells compared to healthy controls (HC). MFT cells had increased frequency in SLE patients and there was an increased frequency of tri-functional MFT in patients with active SLE compared with those with inactive SLE. Interestingly, MTF cells produced larger amounts of IFNγ than mono-functional T cells in patients and controls.
Taken together these data indicate the participation of recently activated Th17 cells and MTF cells in the SLE pathophysiology.
Systemic lupus erythematosus; T lymphocytes; Th17; Multifunctional T cells