Backgroud There is an unmet need for the development of new biomarkers for idiopathic inflammatory myopathy-associated interstitial lung disease (IIM-ILD). Methods Peripheral CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells, stromal cell-derived factor-1 and Krebs von den Lungen-6 were measured in patients with IIM-ILD (n = 85) and controls. The relation to pulmonary functions, high-resolution CT scores, specific clinical phenotypes and survival was analysed. Cytokine-expression profiling of these CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells and their co-culture with pulmonary fibroblasts were conducted. Results The peripheral percentages of CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells were significantly elevated in IIM-ILD patients, and correlated with high-resolution CT score (r = 0.7136, P < 0.0001) and pulmonary function impairments, such as percentage of forced volume vital capacity (r = -0.4734, P = 0.0005). They were associated with anti-melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 autoantibodies and the amyopathic DM phenotype. In IIM-ILD, peripheral percentages of CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells ≥30% revealed a 6-month mortality as high as 47%. These CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells express high levels of IL-21 and IL-6. In vitro blockade of IL-21 signalling by neutralization of IL-21 or Janus kinase inhibitor could abolished the fibroblast proliferation. Conclusion Overall, peripheral CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells appear to be a potentially valuable novel biomarker associated with the severity and prognosis of IIM-ILD. They promote pulmonary fibroblast proliferation via IL-21, which may herald future targeted treatments for this severe disease.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)