Serum IL-17 and IL-23 levels and autoantigen-specific Th17 cells are elevated in patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2010 Jul;25(7):2209-17. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfp783. Epub 2010 Jan 25.


Background: The Th17 subset has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of autoimmune diseases. However, little is known about its role in anti-neutrophil cytoplasm antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV). We measured serum levels of IL-17A and associated upstream cytokines and the frequency of IL-17-producing autoantigen-specific T cells in patients with AAV.

Methods: ELISA on sera from acute (n = 28) and convalescent (n = 65) patients with AAV from Hammersmith Hospital was performed for IL-17A and the associated upstream cytokines IL-23, IL-6 and IL-1beta, as well as the Th1 cytokine IFN-gamma. ELISPOT was performed to measure autoantigen-specific recall T cell responses in convalescent patients and the frequency of IL-17- and IFN-gamma-producing cells.

Results: Serum IL-17A and IL-23 levels were significantly elevated in acute AAV patients compared to healthy controls (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively), but importantly, remained elevated in a proportion of convalescent patients. By contrast, no significant differences in IFN-gamma levels were detected between patient groups and controls. Patients with elevated levels of IL-23 compared to those with low IL-23 had more active disease as measured by Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score (P < 0.05) and had higher ANCA titres (P < 0.05). Critically, immunosuppressive therapy did not always effectively suppress IL-23 or IL-17 production. Additionally, autoantigen-specific IL-17-producing, but not IFN-gamma-producing, cells were significantly elevated in patients during disease convalescence compared to healthy controls.

Conclusions: These data implicate the Th17 axis and specifically IL-23 as mediators of more severe disease in AAV. Their persistence despite conventional treatment may contribute to high relapse rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibody-Associated Vasculitis / blood*
  • Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibody-Associated Vasculitis / immunology
  • Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibody-Associated Vasculitis / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-17 / blood*
  • Interleukin-1beta / blood
  • Interleukin-23 / blood*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology*


  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-23
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interferon-gamma