Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is among the most challenging of the JIA subtypes to treat. Even with current biologic therapies, the disease remains difficult to control in a substantial subset of patients, highlighting the need for new therapies. The aim of this study was to use the high dimensionality afforded by mass cytometry with phospho-specific antibodies to delineate signaling abnormalities in immune cells from treatment-naive polyarticular JIA patients. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from 17 treatment-naive polyarticular JIA patients, 10 of the patients after achieving clinical remission, and 19 healthy controls. Samples were stimulated for 15 minutes with IL-6 or IFN-γ and analyzed by mass cytometry. Following IFN-γ stimulation, increased STAT1 and/or STAT3 phosphorylation was observed in subsets of CD4 T cells and classical monocytes from treatment-naive patients. The enhanced IFN-γ signaling was associated with increased expression of JAK1 and SOCS1 in CD4 T cells. Furthermore, substantial heterogeneity in surface marker expression was observed among the subsets of CD4 T cells and classical monocytes with increased IFN-γ responsiveness. The identification of enhanced IFN-γ signaling in CD4 T cells and classical monocytes from treatment-naive polyarticular JIA patients provides mechanistic support for investigations into therapies that attenuate IFN-γ signaling in this disease.
Keywords: Autoimmune diseases; Immunology; Inflammation; Macrophages; T cells.