Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) suffer frequent infections that account for significant morbidity and mortality. T cell cytotoxic responses are decreased in patients with SLE, yet the responsible molecular events are largely unknown. We find an expanded CD8CD38high T cell subset in a subgroup of patients with increased rates of infections. CD8CD38high T cells from healthy subjects and patients with SLE display decreased cytotoxic capacity, degranulation, and expression of granzymes A and B and perforin. The key cytotoxicity-related transcription factors T-bet, RUNX3, and EOMES are decreased in CD8CD38high T cells. CD38 leads to increased acetylated EZH2 through inhibition of the deacetylase Sirtuin1. Acetylated EZH2 represses RUNX3 expression, whereas inhibition of EZH2 restores CD8 T cell cytotoxic responses. We propose that high levels of CD38 lead to decreased CD8 T cell-mediated cytotoxicity and increased propensity to infections in patients with SLE, a process that can be reversed pharmacologically.
Keywords: CD38; CD8 T cell; EZH2; Sirtuin1; cytotoxicity; infection; nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide; patients; systemic lupus erythematosus.
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