CNI induced Th17/Treg imbalance and susceptibility to renal dysfunction in renal transplantation

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Calcineurin inhibitors (CNI) prevent graft rejection by blocking interleukin-2 (IL-2), which was required for development and function of Foxp3+CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg). Recently, IL-2 was reported to play a part in the inhibition of Th17 cells. The renal transplantation recipient who used CNI regularly might have Th17/Treg imbalance with increased Th17 cells and decreased Treg cells, which would cause renal dysfunction even rejection. To assess the effect of CNI on Th17 cells and Treg cells, we included 123 renal transplantation recipients (101 in a stable stage and 22 with renal dysfunction) and 27 healthy volunteers. Among all the recipients, 103 recipients used CNI and 20 recipients used sirolimus without CNI. The recipients who used CNI were further classified into four groups according to the blood levels of CNI: Of all these subjects, Th17 and Treg frequencies in the peripheral blood were analyzed by flow cytometry (FCM). Serums IL-17, IL-23, IL-6, IFN-r, and TGF-β were analyzed by ELISA. The results demonstrated that the transplantation recipient treated by CNI revealed an obvious increase in peripheral Th17 frequencies and a significant decrease in Treg frequencies when compared with the sirolimus group and healthy people (P<0.05). Even more, the transplantation recipient with renal dysfunction had the highest level of Th17 cells (P<0.05) while the lowest Treg cells compared with stable recipient and healthy control, with increased serums IL-6 and IL-17. Our results indicated that CNI was associated with Th17/Treg imbalance in peripheral blood, which supported the followed generation of renal dysfunction after transplantation.

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