Objective: Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a common inflammatory arthritis affecting primarily the axial skeleton. IL23R is genetically associated with AS. This study was undertaken to investigate and characterize the role of interleukin-23 (IL-23) signaling in AS pathogenesis.
Methods: The study population consisted of patients with active AS (n = 17), patients with psoriatic arthritis (n = 8), patients with rheumatoid arthritis, (n = 9), and healthy subjects (n = 20). IL-23 receptor (IL-23R) expression in T cells was determined in each subject group, and expression levels were compared.
Results: The proportion of IL-23R-expressing T cells in the periphery was 2-fold higher in AS patients than in healthy controls, specifically driven by a 3-fold increase in IL-23R-positive γ/δ T cells in AS patients. The proportions of CD4+ and CD8+ cells that were positive for IL-17 were unchanged. This increased IL-23R expression on γ/δ T cells was also associated with enhanced IL-17 secretion, with no observable IL-17 production from IL-23R-negative γ/δ T cells in AS patients. Furthermore, γ/δ T cells from AS patients were heavily skewed toward IL-17 production in response to stimulation with IL-23 and/or anti-CD3/CD28.
Conclusion: Recently, mouse models have shown IL-17-secreting γ/δ T cells to be pathogenic in infection and autoimmunity. Our data provide the first description of a potentially pathogenic role of these cells in a human autoimmune disease. Since IL-23 is a maturation and growth factor for IL-17-producing cells, increased IL-23R expression may regulate the function of this putative pathogenic γ/δ T cell population.
Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Rheumatology.