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Imbalance of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), interleukin (IL)-4, and IL-17 producing by T cells is confirmed to contribute to the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Autophagy is now emerging as a core player in the development and the function of the immune system. Therefore, we investigated the autophagic behavior in IFN-γ-, IL-4-, and IL-17-producing T cells from patients with SLE.Thirty patients with SLE and 25 healthy controls matched for gender and age were recruited between September 2016 and May 2017. The autophagic levels in IFN-γ+ T cells, IL-4+ T cells, and IL-17+ T cells from patients with newly diagnosed SLE and healthy controls were measured using flow cytometry. The plasma levels of IFN-γ were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in SLE patients and healthy controls. Unpaired t-tests and the nonparametric Mann-Whitney U-test were used to compare data from patients with SLE and controls. Spearman's rank correlation coefficient was applied for calculation of the correlation between parallel variables in single samples.Our results showed increased percentage of autophagy in IFN-γ+ T cells from patients with SLE and healthy controls ([8.07 ± 2.72]% vs. [3.76 ± 1.67]%, t = 5.184, P < 0.001), but not in IL-4+ T cells or IL-17+ T cells (P > 0.05) as compared to healthy donors. Moreover, the plasma levels of IFN-γ in SLE patients were significantly higher than those in healthy controls ([68.9 ± 29.1] pg/ml vs. [24.7 ± 17.6] pg/ml, t = 5.430, P < 0.001). Moreover, in SLE patients, the percentage of autophagy in IFN-γ+ T cells was positively correlated with the plasma levels of IFN-γ (r = 0.344, P = 0.046), as well as the disease activity of patients with SLE (r = 0.379, P = 0.039).The results indicate that autophagy in IFN-γ+ T cells from SLE patients is activated, which might contribute to the persistence of T cells producing IFN-γ, such as Th1 cells, and consequently result in the high plasma levels of IFN-γ, and then enhance the disease activity of SLE.