Progranulin Suppressed Autoimmune Uveitis and Autoimmune Neuroinflammation by Inhibiting Th1/Th17 Cells and Promoting Treg Cells and M2 Macrophages

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2022 Jan 26;9(2):e1133. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000001133. Print 2022 Mar.


Background and objectives: Progranulin (PGRN) is an important immune regulatory molecule in several immune-mediated diseases. The objective of this study is to investigate the role of PGRN in uveitis and its counterpart, experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU), and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).

Methods: Serum PGRN levels in patients with Behcet disease (BD) or Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) disease and normal controls were measured by ELISA. EAE and EAU were induced in B10RIII, wild-type, and PGRN-/- mice to evaluate the effect of PGRN on the development of these 2 immune-mediated disease models. The local and systemic immunologic alterations were detected by ELISA, flow cytometry, and real-time PCR. RNA sequencing was performed to identify the hub genes and key signaling pathway.

Results: A significantly decreased PGRN expression was observed in patients with active BD and active VKH. Recombinant PGRN significantly reduced EAU severity in association with a decreased frequency of Th17 and Th1 cells. PGRN-/- mice developed an exacerbated EAU and EAE in association with strikingly increased frequency of Th1 and Th17 cells and reduced frequency of regulatory T (Treg) cells. In vitro studies revealed that rPGRN could inhibit IRBP161-180-specific Th1 and Th17 cell response and promote Treg cell expansion. It promoted non-antigen-specific Treg cell polarization from naive CD4+ T cells in association with increased STAT5 phosphorylation. Using RAN sequencing, we identified 5 shared hub genes including Tnf, Il6, Il1b, Cxcl2, and Ccl2 and the most significantly enriched MAPK and tumor necrosis factor signaling pathway in PGRN-/- EAU mice. The aggravated EAE activity in PGRN-/- mice was associated with a skew from M2 to M1 macrophages.

Discussion: Our results collectively reveal an important protective role of PGRN in EAU and EAE. These studies suggest that PGRN could serve as an immunoregulatory target in the study of prevention and treatment for the Th1/Th17-mediated diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System* / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System* / immunology
  • Behcet Syndrome* / blood
  • Behcet Syndrome* / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental* / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Macrophages*
  • Progranulins / blood*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory*
  • Th1 Cells*
  • Th17 Cells*
  • Uveitis* / blood
  • Uveitis* / immunology
  • Uveomeningoencephalitic Syndrome / blood
  • Uveomeningoencephalitic Syndrome / immunology


  • Progranulins