Imbalance toward TFH 1 cells playing a role in aberrant B cell differentiation in systemic sclerosis.

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SSc is a connective tissue disease with multisystem disorder induced by the inflammation and fibrosis following T and B cell abnormalities. Follicular helper CD4+ T (TFH) cells play a crucial role in the formation of germinal centres and specialize in interacting to aid B cell differentiation. We aimed to investigate TFH cells and their subsets to evaluate their involvement with B cell alteration in SSc.Circulating TFH cells (cTFH), B cells and their subsets were assessed by flow cytometry. The concentration of serum cytokines was measured by cytokine array assay. Immunohistochemistry and IF were performed to evaluate the migration of TFH cells in SSc skin lesions.The proportion of cTFH cells did not differ from controls, but their subsets were imbalanced in SSc patients. The frequency of TFH 1 was increased and correlated with ACA titre, serum IgM or CRP levels of patients, and cytokine concentrations of IL-21 and IL-6 that induce B cell differentiation in SSc. cTFH cells from SSc showed activated phenotype with expressing higher cytokine levels compared with controls. The frequency of TFH 17 was also increased, but was not correlated with a high level of Th17 cytokines in patients' sera. Furthermore, infiltration of TFH cells was found in skin lesion of SSc patients.We here describe an imbalance of cTFH toward TFH 1 that may induce B cell alteration through IL-21 and IL-6 pathways and promote inflammation, contributing to the pathogenesis of SSc disease.

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