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Myocardial gene expression of T-bet, GATA-3, Ror-γt, FoxP3, and hallmark cytokines in chronic Chagas disease cardiomyopathy: an essentially unopposed TH1-type response.

BACKGROUND: Chronic Chagas disease cardiomyopathy (CCC), a late consequence of Trypanosoma cruzi infection, is an inflammatory cardiomyopathy with prognosis worse than those of noninflammatory etiology (NIC). Although the T cell-rich myocarditis is known to play a pathogenetic role, the relative contribution of each of the functional T cell subsets has never been thoroughly investigated. We therefore assessed gene expression of cytokines and transcription factors involved in differentiation and effector function of each functional T cell subset (TH1/TH2/TH17/Treg) in CCC, NIC, and heart donor myocardial samples.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Quantitative PCR showed markedly upregulated expression of IFN-γ and transcription factor T-bet, and minor increases of GATA-3; FoxP3 and CTLA-4; IL-17 and IL-18 in CCC as compared with NIC samples. Conversely, cytokines expressed by TH2 cells (IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13) or associated with Treg (TGF-β and IL-10) were not upregulated in CCC myocardium. Expression of TH1-related genes such as T-bet, IFN-γ, and IL-18 correlated with ventricular dilation, FoxP3, and CTLA-4.

CONCLUSIONS: Results are consistent with a strong local TH1-mediated response in most samples, possibly associated with pathological myocardial remodeling, and a proportionally smaller FoxP3(+)CTLA4(+) Treg cell population, which is unable to completely curb IFN-γ production in CCC myocardium, therefore fueling inflammation.

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