Insights gained from single-cell analysis of immune cells in tofacitinib treatment of Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease

JCI Insight. 2022 Dec 8;7(23):e162335. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.162335.


Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease (VKH) is an important refractory uveitis mediated by pathological T cells (TCs). Tofacitinib (TOFA) is a JAK- targeted therapy for several autoimmune diseases. However, the specific pathogenesis and targeted therapeutics for VKH remain largely unknown. Based on single-cell RNA sequencing and mass cytometry, we present what we believe is the first multimodal, high-dimensional analysis to generate a comprehensive human immune atlas regarding subset composition, gene signatures, enriched pathways, and intercellular interactions of VKH patients undergoing TOFA therapy. Patients with VKH are characterized by TCs' polarization from naive to effector and memory subsets, together with accrued monocytes and upregulated cytokines and JAK/STAT signaling pathways. In vitro, TOFA reversed Th17/Treg imbalance and inhibited IL-2-induced STAT1/3 phosphorylation. TOFA alleviated VKH symptoms by restoring pathological TCs' polarization and functional marker expression and downregulating cytokine signaling and lymphocyte function. Remarkably, inflammation-related responses and intercellular interactions decreased after TOFA treatment, particularly in monocytes. Notably, we identified 2 inflammation- and JAK-associated monocyte subpopulations that were strongly implicated in VKH pathogenesis and mechanisms involved in TOFA treatment. Here, we provide a potentially novel JAK-targeted therapy for VKH and elaborate on the possible therapeutic mechanisms of TOFA, expanding our knowledge of VKH pathological patterns.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Cellular immune response; Therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Uveomeningoencephalitic Syndrome* / drug therapy

Associated data

  • ChiCTR/ChiCTR2000030237