Impaired activation of STAT5 upon IL-2 stimulation in Tregs and elevated sIL-2R in Sjögren’s syndrome
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonArthritis Research & Therapy. 2022, 24, 101. 10.1186/s13075-022-02769-y
Background Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and the high-affinity IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) are essential for the survival of regulatory T cells (Tregs) which are the main players in immune tolerance and prevention of autoimmune diseases. Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a chronic autoimmune disease predominantly affecting women and is characterised by sicca symptoms including oral and ocular dryness. The aim of this study was to investigate an association between IL-2R and Treg function in patients with SS of different severity defined by the salivary flow rate. Methods In a cross-sectional study, we determined plasma soluble IL-2R (sIL-2R) levels in women with SS (n=97) and healthy females (n=50) using ELISA. A subset of those (n=51) was screened for Treg function measured by the STAT5 signalling response to IL-2 using phospho-flow cytometry. Results We found that elevated plasma levels of sIL-2R were positively associated with the severity of SS reflected by a pathologically low salivary flow. Phospho-flow analysis revealed that patients with SS have a significantly lower frequency of pSTAT5+ Tregs upon IL-2 stimulation compared with healthy individuals, while the frequency of Tregs and pSTAT5 in conventional T cells remained unchanged. In addition, we observed more pSTAT5+ Tregs at baseline in patients with SS, which is significantly associated with seropositivity and elevated sIL-2R. Conclusions Our data indicates that Tregs have a weakened immunosuppressive function in patients with SS due to impaired IL-2/IL-2R signalling capacity. This could mediate lymphocytic infiltration into salivary glands inducing sicca symptoms. We believe that sIL-2R could act as a useful indicator for SS and disease severity.