Peripheral T lymphocytes from patients with early systemic sclerosis co-cultured with autologous fibroblasts undergo an oligoclonal expansion similar to that occurring in the skin

Clin Exp Immunol. 2006 Apr;144(1):169-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2006.03041.x.


In recent years several reports have suggested that T cells may have a role in systemic sclerosis (SSc). The aim of our study was to investigate the dynamics of T cell repertoire in early SSc disease analysing a target organ, the skin, and the peripheral blood. To date, indeed, it is not clear if T cell expansions found in SSc reflect a general activation or result from specific antigen stimulation in the target organs. This is an important point to assess in order to characterize the role of T cells in the development of SSc. To address these questions we studied T cell repertoire by CDR3 length analysis in skin biopsies and peripheral blood obtained from patients affected by SSc and we found that a skewed T cell repertoire was present only in the biopsies. In order to characterize more effectively the meaning of these data, we performed co-cultures using fibroblasts and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) obtained from SSc patients. These experiments showed that same T cell expansions were detectable in the skin of SSc patients and in the cultures of PBMCs and autologous fibroblasts of the patients but not in their peripheral blood. Taken together, these data suggest that fibroblasts trigger specific T cell expansions in the early phase of SSc.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Coculture Techniques / methods
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Culture Test, Mixed / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / blood
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / genetics
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / immunology*
  • Skin / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell