The TH1 phenotype of follicular helper T cells indicates an IFN-γ–associated immune dysregulation in patients with CD21low common variable immunodeficiency

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Abstract

Background:

A subgroup of patients with common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) experience immune dysregulation manifesting as autoimmunity, lymphoproliferation, and organ inflammation and thereby increasing morbidity and mortality. Therefore treatment of these complications demands a deeper comprehension of their cause and pathophysiology.

Objectives:

On the basis of the identification of an interferon signature in patients with CVID with secondary complications and a skewed follicular helper T-cell differentiation in defined monogenic immunodeficiencies, we sought to determine the profile of CD4 memory T cells in blood and secondary lymphatic tissues of these patients.

Methods:

We quantified TH1/TH2/TH17 CD4 memory T cells in blood and lymph nodes of patients with CVID using flow cytometry, analyzed their function, and correlated all findings to the burden of immune dysregulation.

Results:

Patients with CVID with immune dysregulation had a skewed memory CD4 T-cell differentiation toward a CXCR3+CCR6− TH1 phenotype both in blood and lymph nodes. Consistent with our phenotypic findings, we observed a higher IFN-γ production in peripheral CD4 memory T cells and lymph node–derived follicular helper T cells of patients with CVID compared with those of healthy control subjects. Increased IFN-γ production was accompanied by a poor germinal center output, an accumulation of T-box transcription factor (T-bet)+ B cells in lymph nodes, and an accumulation of T-bet+CD21low B cells in peripheral blood of affected patients.

Conclusion:

Identification of excessive IFN-γ production by blood and lymph node–derived T cells of patients with CVID with immune dysregulation will offer new therapeutic avenues for this subgroup. CD21low B cells might serve as a marker of this IFN-γ–associated dysregulation.

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