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Interleukin 12 and interleukin 23 play key pathogenic roles in inflammatory and proliferative pathways in giant cell arteritis
  1. Richard Conway1,2,
  2. Lorraine O’Neill1,
  3. Geraldine M McCarthy3,
  4. Conor C Murphy4,
  5. Aurelie Fabre5,
  6. Susan Kennedy5,
  7. Douglas J Veale1,
  8. Sarah M Wade6,
  9. Ursula Fearon6,
  10. Eamonn S Molloy1
  1. 1 Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases, St Vincent’s University Hospital Dublin, Academic Medical Centre, Dublin 4, Ireland
  2. 2 CARD Newman Research Fellow, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3 Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin Academic Medical Centre, Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4 RCSI Department of Ophthalmology, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  5. 5 Department of Pathology, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  6. 6 Department of Molecular Rheumatology, School of Medicine, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Richard Conway, Centre for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin 4, D04 Y8V0, Ireland; drrichardconway{at}


Objectives The pathogenesis of giant cell arteritis (GCA) remains unclear. TH1 and TH17 pathways are implicated, but the proximal initiators and effector cytokines are unknown. Our aim was to assess the role of interleukin 12 (IL-12) and interleukin 23 (IL-23) in GCA pathogenesis.

Methods IL-12 and IL-23 expression were quantified by immunohistochemistry in temporal artery biopsies (TABs). Temporal artery (TA) explant, peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) and myofibroblast outgrowth culture models were established. PBMCs and TA explants were cultured for 24 hours in the presence or absence of IL-12 (50 ng/mL) or IL-23 (10 ng/mL). Gene expression in TA was quantified by real-time PCR and cytokine secretion by ELISA. Myofibroblast outgrowths were quantified following 28-day culture.

Results Immunohistochemistry demonstrated increased expression of interleukin 12p35 (IL-12p35) and interleukin 23p19 (IL-23p19) in biopsy-positive TAs, localised to inflammatory cells. IL-12p35 TA expression was significantly increased in those with cranial ischaemic complications (p=0.026) and large vessel vasculitis (p=0.006). IL-23p19 TA expression was increased in those with two or more relapses (p=0.007). In PBMC cultures, exogenous IL-12 significantly increased interleukin 6 (IL-6) (p=0.009), interleukin 22 (IL-22) (p=0.003) and interferon γ (IFN-γ) (p=0.0001) and decreased interleukin 8 (IL-8) (p=0.0006) secretion, while exogenous IL-23 significantly increased IL-6 (p=0.029), IL-22 (p=0.001), interleukin 17A (IL-17A) (p=0.0003) and interleukin 17F (IL-17F) (p=0.012) secretion. In ex vivo TA explants, IL-23 significantly increased gene expression of IL-8 (p=0.0001) and CCL-20 (p=0.027) and protein expression of IL-6 (p=0.002) and IL-8 (p=0.004). IL-12 (p=0.0005) and IL-23 (p<0.0001) stimulation increased the quantity of myofibroblast outgrowths from TABs.

Conclusion IL-12 and IL-23 play central and distinct roles in stimulating inflammatory and proliferative pathways relevant to GCA pathogenesis.

  • giant cell arteritis
  • systemic vasculitis
  • cytokines

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  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors RC planned the study, performed experiments, analysed data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. LO’N, SK, SMW and AF performed experiments, analysed data, revised the manuscript for intellectual content and approved the final version. GMMcC, CCM, DJV, UF and ESM planned the study, contributed to the data analysis, revised the manuscript for intellectual content and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by St Vincent’s University Hospital ethics committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note The results from this study were presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Congress 2018 and have been published in abstract form: Conway R et al. Interleukin-12 and Interleukin-23 are Key Pathogenic Players in Giant Cell Arteritis [abstract SAT0542]. Ann RheumDis.2018;77(Suppl):(A1125).