Impaired IL-6-induced JAK-STAT signaling in CD4+ T cells associates with longer treatment duration in giant cell arteritis

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: The IL-12-IFNγ-Th1 and the IL-6-IL-23-Th17 axes are considered the dominant pathogenic pathways in Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA). Both pathways signal via activation of the downstream JAK/STAT proteins. We hypothesized that phosphorylated STAT (pSTAT) signatures in circulating immune cells may aid to stratify GCA-patients for personalized treatment.

METHODS: To investigate pSTAT expression, PBMCs from treatment-naive GCA-patients (n = 18), infection controls (INF, n = 11) and age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 15) were stimulated in vitro with IL-6, IL-2, IL-10, IFN-γ, M-CSF or GM-CSF, and stained with CD3, CD4, CD19, CD45RO, pSTAT1, pSTAT3, pSTAT5 antibodies, and analyzed by flow cytometry. Serum IL-6, sIL-6-receptor and gp130 were measured by Luminex. The change in percentages of pSTAT3+CD4+T-cells was evaluated at diagnosis and at 3 months and 1-year of follow-up. Kaplan-Meier analyses was used to asses prognostic accuracy.

RESULTS: Analysis of IL-6 stimulated immune cell subsets revealed a significant decrease in percentages of pSTAT3+CD4+T-cells of GCA-patients and INF-controls compared to HCs. Following patient stratification according to high (median>1.5 pg/mL) and low (median<1.5 pg/mL) IL-6 levels, we observed a reduction in the pSTAT3 response in GCA-patients with high serum IL-6. Percentages of pSTAT3+CD4+T-cells in patients with high serum IL-6 levels at diagnosis normalized after glucocorticoid (GC) treatment. Importantly, we found that patients with low percentages of pSTAT3+CD4+T-cells at baseline require longer GC-treatment.

CONCLUSION: Overall, in GCA, the percentages of in vitro IL-6-induced pSTAT3+CD4+T-cells likely reflect prior in vivo exposure to high IL-6 and may serve as a prognostic marker for GC-treatment duration and may assist improving personalized treatment options in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103215
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
Volume146
Early online date22-Apr-2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2024

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