Methods: Thirty-eight patients with juvenile AILD (22 autoimmune hepatitis and 16 autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis), 8 disease controls (DC) and 16 healthy subjects (HS) were studied. Peripheral blood cell phenotype was determined by flow cytometry; ability to suppress by inhibition of cell proliferation/ effector cytokine production; ectoenzymatic activity by thin layer chromatography; expression of adenosine receptor, adenosine deaminase (ADA) and phosphodiesterases (PDE) by quantitative real-time PCR or by Western Blot.
Results: CD39þ Th17 (Th17CD39þ) cells from HS appear activated and contain high frequencies of lymphocytes producing regulatory cytokines. In AILD, however, Th17CD39þ cells are markedly diminished and fail to generate AMP/adenosine, thereby limiting control of both target cell proliferation and IL-17 production. When compared to HS, Th17 cells from AILD patients also show lower A2A adenosine receptor expression while displaying similar levels of PDE4A, PDE4B and ADA. Only rare Th17CD39þ cells are observed by liver immunohistochemistry.
Conclusions: Th17CD39þ cells in juvenile AILD are both quantitatively decreased and qualitatively deficient. Low levels CD39 and A2A expression may contribute to the perpetuation of Th17 cell effector properties and unfettered inflammation in this disease.
- Th17 cells
- Autoimmune liver disease