Dendritic and stromal cells from the spleen of lupic mice present phenotypic and functional abnormalities

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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by the increase in the percentage of autoreactive B and T lymphocytes. Since dendritic cells (DCs) are essential for B cell and T cell function, we hypothesized that changes in DC biology may play a critical role in the pathogenesis of the disease. We analyzed the phenotype and distribution of two main DC subsets, conventional (cDC) and plasmacytoid (pDC), in lupus prone (NZW×NZB)F1 (BWF1) mice and age-matched NZW×BALB/c control mice. Our results show that both subsets of lupic DCs displayed an abnormal phenotype, characterized by an over-expression of the co-stimulatory molecules CD80, CD86, PD-L1 and PD-L2 compared with control mice. Accordingly, spleen CD4+ T cells from lupic mice exhibit an activated phenotype characterized by a higher expression of PD-1, CD25, CD69 and increased secretion of IFN-γ and IL-10. Interestingly, lupic mice also present an increase in the percentage of cDC in peripheral blood and an increase in the percentage of pDCs in spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) compared with control and pre-lupic mice. Homing experiments demonstrate that lupic and pre-lupic DCs migrate preferentially to the spleen compared to DCs from control mice. This preferential recruitment and retention of DCs in the spleen is related to an altered expression of different chemokine and chemokine receptors on both, DCs and stromal cells from lupic mice. Our results suggest that this altered phenotype and migratory behavior shown by DCs from lupic mice may account for the abnormal T cell and B cell responses in lupus.

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