Imbalance of regulatory T cells to Th17 cells in IgA nephropathy

Fu-Jun Lin, Geng-Ru Jiang, Jian-Ping Shan, Chun Zhu, Jun Zou, Xiang-Ru Wu
Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation 2012, 72 (3): 221-9

BACKGROUND: Dysregulation of CD4 (+) T cell subsets participates in the pathogenesis of IgA nephropathy (IgAN). FoxP3 (+) regulatory T cells (Treg) and Th17 cells are two novel subsets of CD4 (+) T cells. This study aims to investigate Treg/Th17 balance in IgAN patients.

METHODS: Peripheral frequencies of Th17 and Treg functional subsets - CD45RA (+) FoxP3(low) resting Treg (rTreg) and CD45RA(-)FoxP3(high) activated Treg (aTreg) were assessed in 63 adult IgAN patients. Expression of transcription factors (FoxP3 and RORγt) and related cytokines of Treg and Th17 were analysed. Renal expression of FoxP3 and IL-17A were detected by immunohistochemistry.

RESULTS: Compared with normal controls, IgAN patients had decreased frequency of CD45RA(-)FoxP3(high) aTreg subset (p < 0.05), increased frequency of Th17 (p < 0.05) and decreased ratio of Treg/Th17 (p < 0.05). Frequency of aTreg subset correlated with SBP(r = - 0.57, p < 0.05), DBP (r = - 0.50, p < 0.05), eGFR (r = 0.68, p < 0.05) and 24 h proteinuria (r = - 0.58, p < 0.05). RORγtmRNA/FoxP3mRNA ratio increased in IgAN (p < 0.05). Serum IL-17A, IL-21, IL-23, IL-1β and IL-6 elevated while IL-10 decreased in IgAN (p < 0.05), and serum IL-17A correlated with 24 h proteinuria (r = 0.35, p < 0.05). Serum TGF-β1 wasn't different between the two groups. Renal interstitial infiltration of FoxP3 (+) mononuclear cells were observed in IgAN patients, particularly prominent in those with > 25% tubular atrophy/interstitial fibrosis. Tubular IL-17A expression was found in 34 out of 63 IgAN patients. Compared with 29 patients without IL-17A expression, these patients had lower renal function, greater proteinuria, and more severe tubulointerstitial damage.

CONCLUSIONS: Imbalance of Treg/Th17 found in IgAN may play a role in disease pathogenesis and progression.

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