OBJECTIVES: Immunoglobulin G4-related sclerosing cholangitis (IgG4-SC) and autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) are characterized by an abundance of circulating and tissue IgG4-positive plasma cells. T-follicular helper (Tfh) cells are necessary for B-cell differentiation into plasma cells. We aimed at elucidating the presence and phenotype of Tfh cells and their relationship with disease activity in IgG4-SC/AIP. METHODS: Circulating Tfh-cell subsets were characterized by multiparametric flow cytometry in IgG4-SC/AIP (n = 18), disease controls with primary sclerosing cholangitis (n = 8), and healthy controls (HCs, n = 9). Tissue Tfh cells were characterized in IgG4-SC/AIP (n = 12) and disease control (n = 10) specimens. Activated PD1+ Tfh cells were cocultured with CD27+ memory B cells to assess their capacity to support B-cell differentiation. Disease activity was assessed using the IgG4-responder index and clinical parameters. RESULTS: Activated circulating PD-1+CXCR5+ Tfh cells were expanded in active vs inactive IgG4-SC/AIP, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and HC (P < 0.01), with enhanced PD-1 expression on all Tfh-cell subsets (Tfh1, P = 0.003; Tfh2, P = 0.0006; Th17, P = 0.003). Expansion of CD27+CD38+CD19lo plasmablasts in active disease vs HC (P = 0.01) correlated with the PD-1+ Tfh2 subset (r = 0.69, P = 0.03). Increased IL-4 and IL-21 cytokine production from stimulated cells of IgG4-SC/AIP, important in IgG4 class switch and proliferation, correlated with PD-1+ Tfh2 (r = 0.89, P = 0.02) and PD-1+ Tfh17 (r = 0.83, P = 0.03) subsets. Coculture of PD1+ Tfh with CD27+ B cells induced higher IgG4 expression than with PD1- Tfh (P = 0.008). PD-1+ Tfh2 cells were strongly associated with clinical markers of disease activity: sIgG4 (r = 0.70, P = 0.002), sIgE (r = 0.66, P = 0.006), and IgG4-responder index (r = 0.60, P = 0.006). Activated CXCR5+ Tfh cells homed to lymphoid follicles in IgG4-SC/AIP tissues. CONCLUSIONS: Circulating and tissue-activated Tfh cells are expanded in IgG4-SC/AIP, correlate with disease activity, and can drive class switch and proliferation of IgG4-committed B cells. PD1+ Tfh2 cells may be a biomarker of active disease and a potential target for immunotherapy.
Clin Transl Gastroenterol
Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, B-Lymphocytes, Biliary Tract, Biopsy, Cell Separation, Cells, Cultured, Cholangitis, Sclerosing, Coculture Techniques, Female, Flow Cytometry, Humans, Immunoglobulin G, Lymphocyte Activation, Male, Middle Aged, Pancreas, Pancreatitis, Primary Cell Culture, Prospective Studies, Th2 Cells