Systemic immune response to vimentin and granuloma formation in a model of pulmonary sarcoidosis

J Transl Autoimmun. 2022 Apr 5;5:100153. doi: 10.1016/j.jtauto.2022.100153. eCollection 2022.


A characteristic feature of sarcoidosis is a dysregulated immune response to persistent stimuli, often leading to the formation of non-necrotizing granulomas in various organs. Although genetic susceptibility is an essential factor in disease development, the etiology of sarcoidosis is not fully understood. Specifically, whether autoimmunity contributes to the initiation or progression of the disease is uncertain. In this study, we investigated systemic autoimmunity to vimentin in sarcoidosis. IgG antibodies to human vimentin were measured in sera from sarcoidosis patients and healthy controls. Mice immunized with recombinant murine vimentin were challenged intravenously with vimentin-coated beads to mimic pulmonary sarcoidosis. Lungs from treated mice were studied for cellular infiltration, granuloma formation, and gene expression. Immune cells in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were evaluated by flow cytometry. Compared to healthy controls, sarcoidosis patients had a higher frequency and levels of circulating anti-vimentin IgG. Vimentin-immunized mice developed lung granulomas following intravenous challenge with vimentin-coated beads. These sarcoidosis-like granulomas showed the presence of Langhans and foreign body multinucleated giant cells, CD4 T cells, and a heterogeneous collection of MHC II positive and arginase 1-expressing macrophages. The lungs showed upregulated pro-inflammatory gene expression, including Ifng, Il17, and Tnfa, reflecting TH1/TH17 responses typical of sarcoidosis. In addition, genes in the TH2 canonical pathway were also upregulated, congruent with increased numbers of ILC2 in the bronchoalveolar lavage. Overall, these results further validate vimentin as an autoantigen in sarcoidosis and provide evidence for an anti-vimentin immune response in disease pathogenesis. Our study also highlights the possible role of ILC2-driven TH2-like responses in the formation of lung granulomas in sarcoidosis.

Keywords: Granuloma; Mouse models; Multinucleated giant cells; Sarcoidosis; Type 2 innate lymphoid cells; Vimentin.