Objective: To investigate the expressions of Foxp3 and CD25 on CD4+ T cells from patients with new-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and assess their clinical significance.
Methods: 10 patients with active (systemic lupus erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) ⩾10) and 11 with inactive (SLEDAI ⩽5) new-onset SLE as well as 11 healthy volunteers were enrolled. The expressions of CD25, Foxp3 and CD127 on CD4+ T cells were analysed by flow cytometry. Proliferation assays were performed on isolated CD4+CD25+ or CD4+CD25− T cells, or both.
Results: There was no significant difference in the number of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T cells in subjects with either active or inactive SLE compared with normal controls (p>0.05). Moreover, the suppressive capacity of CD4+CD25+ T cells in patients with new-onset lupus was not impaired as measured by the ability to inhibit proliferation of CD4+CD25− T cells. Interestingly, CD4+CD25−Foxp3+ T cells in new-onset lupus (2.97–10.94%) were significantly more frequent than in normal controls (1.01–3.62%) (p<0.01), and correlated positively with the titres of anti-dsDNA antibodies (p = 0.029). Few of these cells expressed CD127. Treatment with glucocorticoids and cyclophosphamide reduced CD4+CD25−Foxp3+ T cells in 8 of 10 patients with active disease.
Conclusions: There was a significant increase in CD4+CD25−Foxp3+ T cells in patients with new-onset SLE that correlated with anti-dsDNA titres, whereas no alteration in either the percentage or function of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T cells was observed.
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Competing interests: None declared.
Funding: This work was supported by New Century Excellent Talents Ministry of Education of China (NCET-04-0191), National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (30400410), Natural Sciences Foundation of Beijing (7052052), and National Program for Key Basic Research Project (2007CB512405 for Immunology), Ministry of Science and Technology, China.
Ethics approval: Approved by the ethics committee of Peking Union Medical College Hospital.
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