Rationale: Patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) present circulating autoantibodies against vascular wall components. Pathogenic antibodies may be generated in tertiary (ectopic) lymphoid tissues (tLTs).
Objectives: To assess the frequency of tLTs in IPAH lungs, as compared with control subjects and flow-induced PAH in patients with Eisenmenger syndrome, and to identify local mechanisms responsible for their formation, perpetuation, and function.
Methods: tLT composition and structure were studied by multiple immunostainings. Cytokine/chemokine and growth factor expression was quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction and localized by immunofluorescence. The systemic mark of pulmonary lymphoid neogenesis was investigated by flow cytometry analyses of circulating lymphocytes.
Measurements and main results: As opposed to lungs from control subjects and patients with Eisenmenger syndrome, IPAH lungs contained perivascular tLTs, comprising B- and T-cell areas with high endothelial venules and dendritic cells. Lymphocyte survival factors, such as IL-7 and platelet-derived growth factor-A, were expressed in tLTs as well as the lymphorganogenic cytokines/chemokines, lymphotoxin-α/-β, CCL19, CCL20, CCL21, and CXCL13, which might explain the depletion of circulating CCR6(+) and CXCR5(+) lymphocytes. tLTs were connected with remodeled vessels via an ER-TR7(+) stromal network and supplied by lymphatic channels. The presence of germinal center centroblasts, follicular dendritic cells, activation-induced cytidine deaminase, and IL-21(+)PD1(+) follicular helper T cells in tLTs together with CD138(+) plasma cell accumulation around remodeled vessels in areas of immunoglobulin deposition argued for local immunoglobulin class switching and ongoing production.
Conclusions: We highlight the main features of lymphoid neogenesis specifically in the lungs of patients with IPAH, providing new evidence of immunological mechanisms in this severe condition.