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Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and the high-affinity IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) are essential for the survival of regulatory T cells (Tregs) which are the main players in immune tolerance and prevention of autoimmune diseases. Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is a chronic autoimmune disease predominantly affecting women and is characterised by sicca symptoms including oral and ocular dryness. The aim of this study was to investigate an association between IL-2R and Treg function in patients with SS of different severity defined by the salivary flow rate. In a cross-sectional study, we determined plasma soluble IL-2R (sIL-2R) levels in women with SS (n=97) and healthy females (n=50) using ELISA. A subset of those (n=51) was screened for Treg function measured by the STAT5 signalling response to IL-2 using phospho-flow cytometry. We found that elevated plasma levels of sIL-2R were positively associated with the severity of SS reflected by a pathologically low salivary flow. Phospho-flow analysis revealed that patients with SS have a significantly lower frequency of pSTAT5+ Tregs upon IL-2 stimulation compared with healthy individuals, while the frequency of Tregs and pSTAT5 in conventional T cells remained unchanged. In addition, we observed more pSTAT5+ Tregs at baseline in patients with SS, which is significantly associated with seropositivity and elevated sIL-2R. Our data indicates that Tregs have a weakened immunosuppressive function in patients with SS due to impaired IL-2/IL-2R signalling capacity. This could mediate lymphocytic infiltration into salivary glands inducing sicca symptoms. We believe that sIL-2R could act as a useful indicator for SS and disease severity. © 2022. The Author(s).


Magdalena Keindl, Richard Davies, Brith Bergum, Johan G Brun, Daniel Hammenfors, Roland Jonsson, Valeriya Lyssenko, Silke Appel. Impaired activation of STAT5 upon IL-2 stimulation in Tregs and elevated sIL-2R in Sjögren's syndrome. Arthritis research & therapy. 2022 May 07;24(1):101

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PMID: 35526080

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