CCR6(+) Th cell populations distinguish ACPA positive from ACPA negative rheumatoid arthritis

Sandra Paulissen, Jan piet Hamburg, Nadine Davelaar, Heleen Vroman, Mieke Hazes, Pascal de Jong, Erik Lubberts

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Introduction: Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be separated into two major subpopulations based on the absence or presence of serum anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs). The more severe disease course in ACPA(+) RA and differences in treatment outcome between these subpopulations suggest that ACPA(+) and ACPA(-) RA are different disease subsets. The identification of T-helper (Th) cells specifically recognizing citrullinated peptides, combined with the strong association between HLA-DRB1 and ACPA positivity, point toward a pathogenic role of Th cells in ACPA(+) RA. In this context we recently identified a potential pathogenic role for CCR6(+) Th cells in RA. Therefore, we examined whether Th cell population distributions differ by ACPA status. Methods: We performed a nested matched case-control study including 27 ACPA(+) and 27 ACPA-treatment-naive early RA patients matched for disease activity score in 44 joints, presence of rheumatoid factor, sex, age, duration of complaints and presence of erosions. CD4(+)CD45RO(+) (memory) Th cell distribution profiles from these patients were generated based on differential chemokine receptor expression and related with disease duration. Results: ACPA status was not related to differences in total CD4(+) T cell or memory Th cell proportions. However, ACPA(+) patients had significantly higher proportions of Th cells expressing the chemokine receptors CCR6 and CXCR3. Similar proportions of CCR4(+) and CCR10(+) Th cells were found. Within the CCR6(+) cell population, four Th subpopulations were distinguished based on differential chemokine receptor expression: Th17 (CCR4(+)CCR10(-)), Th17.1 (CXCR3(+)), Th22 (CCR4(+)CCR10(+)) and CCR4/CXCR3 double-positive (DP) cells. In particular, higher proportions of Th22 (p = 0.02), Th17.1 (p = 0.03) and CCR4/CXCR3 DP (p = 0.01) cells were present in ACPA(+) patients. In contrast, ACPA status was not associated with differences in Th1 (CCR6-CXCR3(+); p = 0.90), Th2 (CCR6(-)CCR4(+); p = 0.27) and T-regulatory (CD25(hi)FOXP3(+); p = 0.06) cell proportions. Interestingly, CCR6(+) Th cells were inversely correlated with disease duration in ACPA-patients (R-2 = -0.35; p < 0.01) but not in ACPA(+) (R-2 < 0.01; p = 0.94) patients. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that increased peripheral blood CCR6(+) Th cells proportions distinguish ACPA(+) RA from ACPA(-) RA. This suggests that CCR6(+) Th cells are involved in the differences in disease severity and treatment outcome between ACPA(+) and ACPA(-) RA.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalArthritis Research & Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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