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Increase in circulating cells coexpressing M1 and M2 macrophage surface markers in patients with systemic sclerosis
  1. Stefano Soldano PhD1,
  2. Amelia Chiara Trombetta PhD1,
  3. Paola Contini PhD2,
  4. Veronica Tomatis MD1,
  5. Barbara Ruaro MD1,
  6. Renata Brizzolara PhD1,
  7. Paola Montagna PhD1,
  8. Alberto Sulli MD1,
  9. Sabrina Paolino MD1,
  10. Carmen Pizzorni MD1,
  11. Vanessa Smith MD3,
  12. Maurizio Cutolo MD1
  1. 1 Research Laboratory and Academic Division of Clinical Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genova, Polyclinic San Martino Hospital, Genoa, Italy
  2. 2 Clinical Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genova, Polyclinic San Martino Hospital, Genova, Italy
  3. 3 Department of Rheumatology, Ghent University Hospital, Department of Internal Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Professor Maurizio Cutolo MD, Research Laboratory and Academic Division of Clinical Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genova, Polyclinic San Martino Hospital, Genoa 16132, Italy; mcutolo{at}

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Alterations in macrophage polarisation are recognised among the possible immune system abnormalities contributing to systemic sclerosis (SSc) pathogenesis.1

Macrophages have been classified as classically (M1) or alternatively (M2) activated, although growing evidence indicates that they may exhibit characteristics shared by more than one of the described phenotypes.2–5

An M2 pre-eminent phenotype has been postulated for SSc monocytes/macrophages.2 The aim of the study was to widen a phenotype characterisation (M1, M2 and mixed M1/M2) of circulating monocytes/macrophages in patients with SSc and healthy subjects (HSs) through flow cytometry analysis. Fifty-eight consecutive patients with SSc (38 limited and 20 diffuse SSc) and 27 age-matched and gender-matched HSs were enrolled after signing informed consent. SSc diagnosis was based on the 2013 American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism criteria (online supplementary file 1).6 For flow cytometry analysis, peripheral blood was collected and anti-CD14 and anti-CD45 antibodies were used to identify the monocyte/macrophage lineage; macrophage scavenger receptors (CD204, CD163) and mannose receptor 1 (CD206) were used as M2 phenotype markers; and co-stimulatory molecules (CD80, CD86) and Toll-like receptors (TLR4, TLR2) were used as M1 phenotype markers. CD66b was used to distinguish granulocytes (Miltenyi Biotech, Germany). Flow  c ytometry analysis was performed using the Navios flow cytometer and Kaluza analysis software (Beckman Coulter). A total of  5 × 10 6 cells   were evaluated and more than 30 events were detected in the smallest subset investigated, according to the consensus guidelines for minimal residual disease. Results were expressed in percentages over total circulating leu c ocytes, unless otherwise specified. The non-parametric al Mann-Whitney U test was used for statistical analysis and any p value lower than 0.05 was considered statistically significant.  Two initial gating strategies were used to study circulating M2-like monocytes/macrophages, the first gated CD14+cells and the second gated CD204 …

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  • SS and ACT contributed equally.

  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors SS, ACT and MC designed the study, analysed the data, carried out the statistical analysis and wrote the manuscript; PC performed the flow cytometry analysis; VT and BR enrolled the patients with systemic sclerosis and healthy subjects and collected the demographic and clinical parameters of the patients with SSc; RB and PM managed and prepared the samples for the flow cytometry analysis; AS, SP and CP supervised the enrolment of the patients with SSc and the healthy subjects and the clinical data collection; VS revised the critical and important intellectual contents of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Local Ethics committee (protocol number 273-REG-2015).

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

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The equal contribution statement has been added.