Author(s): Miyara M, Amoura Z, Parizot C, Badoual C, Dorgham K,
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Abstract The immune defect that could account for the multisystemic involvement that characterizes systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) remains unknown. We hypothesized that iterative disease flares correspond to a recurrent defect in the peripheral immune suppression exerted by naturally occurring T regulatory cells (Tregs). Surprisingly, Tregs isolated from lupus patients show the same phenotypic and functional characteristics as corresponding cells found in healthy controls. A decrease in the proportion of circulating Tregs among other CD4+ T cells is nevertheless evidenced in active patients when this group is compared with healthy controls (0.57 +/- 0.24\%, n = 45 vs 1.29 +/- 0.38\%, n = 82, p < 0.0001) or with inactive patients (1.22 +/- 0.67\%, n = 62, p < 0.0001). In contrast, the proportion of Tregs in other systemic autoimmune diseases such as primary Sjögren syndrome and inflammatory myopathy does not significantly differ from controls' values (1.15 +/- 0.46\%, n = 21, p = 0.09 and 1.16 +/- 0.44\%, n = 16, p = 0.43, respectively). Lupus Tregs do not accumulate in either the lymph nodes or the diseased kidneys and are not killed by a circulating soluble factor, but demonstrate in vitro a heightened sensitivity to Fas-induced apoptosis. Finally, we show that the extent of Treg depletion correlates with the clinical severity of the flare. SLE flares are therefore associated with a global Treg depletion and not with a phenomenon of tissue redistribution. In summary, we suggest that the physiopathology of SLE could be tied to a defect in the homeostatic control of the Treg subpopulation.
This article was published in J Immunol
and referenced in Rheumatology: Current Research