Objective: To investigate in vitro proliferative responses of CD4+ T cells and generation of specific cytokines induced by stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis with the autoantigens proteinase 3 (PR3) and myeloperoxidase (MPO).
Methods: PBMCs from vasculitis patients with PR3 ANCA or MPO ANCA and from healthy controls were stimulated for 7 days with PR3, MPO, or control stimuli. Proliferation of CD4+ T cells was assessed by flow cytometry, using the proliferation marker Ki-67. Levels of the pro-proliferative cytokines interleukin-2 (IL-2) and IL-6 and of the Th1 and Th2 cytokines interferon-gamma (IFN gamma) and IL-10 in culture supernatants were determined.
Results: PR3 and MPO induced proliferative responses in CD4+ T cells from individual patients with ANCA-associated vasculitides and healthy controls in vitro. Neither PR3 nor MPO elicited significant IL-2 production. Levels of IL-6 were highest after stimulation with PR3 but low after stimulation with MPO, independent of study group. Stimulation with PR3, and to a lesser extent with MPO, induced a Th2 cytokine milieu, characterized by high production of IL-6 and IL-10 and low production of IFN gamma in patients and controls.
Conclusion: PR3 and MPO promote proliferation of CD4+ T cells from patients with ANCA-associated vasculitides, but also cross-stimulate T cells from healthy individuals. Strong IL-10 production elicited by PR3 in vitro may act as an inhibitory signal for T cell proliferation and may have an important immunoregulatory function in vivo.