Single cell based phosphorylation profiling identifies alterations in toll-like receptor 7 and 9 signaling in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is associated with polymorphisms and mRNA expression profiles that are indicative of an exaggerated innate and type I IFN immune response. Excessive activation potential of signaling pathways may play a role in this profile, but the intracellular signaling profile of the disease is not well characterized. To gain insights into potentially dysfunctional intracellular signaling profiles of pSS patients we conducted an exploratory analysis of MAPK/ERK and JAK/STAT signaling networks in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 25 female pSS patients and 25 female age-matched healthy donors using phospho-specific flow cytometry. We analyzed unstimulated samples, as well as samples during a 4 h time period following activation of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and 9. Expression levels of MxA, IFI44, OAS1, GBP1, and GBP2 in PBMC were analyzed by real-time PCR. Cytokine levels in plasma were determined using a 25-plex Luminex-assay. Principal component analysis (PCA) showed that basal phosphorylation profiles could be used to differentiate pSS patients from healthy donor samples by stronger intracellular signaling pathway activation in NK and T cells relative to B cells. Stimulation of PBMC with TLR7 and −9 ligands showed significant differences in the phosphorylation profiles between samples from pSS patients and healthy donors. Including clinical parameters such as extraglandular manifestations (EGM), we observed stronger responses of NF-κB and STAT3 S727 in B cells from EGM-negative patients compared to EGM-positive patients and healthy controls. Plasma cytokine levels were correlated to the basal phosphorylation levels in these patients. In addition, 70% of the patients had a positive IFN score. These patients differed from the IFN score negative patients regarding their phosphorylation profiles and their plasma cytokine levels. In conclusion, we here report increased signaling potentials in peripheral B cells of pSS patients in response to TLR7 and −9 stimulation through STAT3 S727 and NF-κB that correlate with a type I IFN signature. Induction of these pathways could contribute to the generation of a type I IFN signature in pSS. Patients displaying elevated potentiation of STAT3 S727 and NF-κB signaling could therefore benefit from therapies targeting these pathways.