A recently identified interleukin (IL)-17-producing T-helper (Th) lymphocyte subset, which comprises Th17 cells producing hallmark cytokines IL-17A, IL-17F and IL-22, is involved in chronic inflammatory diseases. Elevated gene and protein expressions of IL-17 are manifested in allergic asthma. We further characterized the activation of Th17 cells in asthmatic patients. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were purified from 31 asthmatic patients and 20 sex- and age-matched control subjects. The number of IL-17A secreting cells in peripheral blood was enumerated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assay. Cell surface expression of Th17-related chemokine receptor CCR6, and plasma level of IL-17A, IL-17F and IL-22, and ex vivo production of IL-17A and IL-22 were measured by flow cytometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, respectively. The number of peripheral Th17 lymphocytes, expression of CCR6 on Th cells, and ex vivo IL-23, anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 induced production of IL-22 by PBMC were significantly elevated in asthmatic patients compared with control subjects (all p < 0.01). This clinical study further confirmed increased number of peripheral Th17 lymphocytes and cell surface expression of CCR6 receptors on Th cells in asthmatic patients. Pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-23 can exacerbate disease severity by activating pathogenic Th17 lymphocytes to release downstream inflammatory cytokine IL-22 in asthma.
- Th17 cells
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