Impact of immune checkpoint molecules on FoxP3+ Treg cells and related cytokines in patients with acute and chronic brucellosis

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Abstract

Background: The immunoregulatory functions of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the development and progression of some chronic infectious diseases are mediated by immune checkpoint molecules and immunosuppressive cytokines. However, little is known about the immunosuppressive functions of Tregs in human brucellosis, which is a major burden in low-income countries. In this study, expressions of immune checkpoint molecules and Treg-related cytokines in patients with acute and chronic Brucella infection were evaluated to explore their impact at different stages of infection. Methods: Forty patients with acute brucellosis and 19 patients with chronic brucellosis admitted to the Third People’s Hospital of Linfen in Shanxi Province between August 2016 and November 2017 were enrolled. Serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from patients before antibiotic treatment and from 30 healthy subjects. The frequency of Tregs (CD4+ CD25+ FoxP3+ T cells) and expression of CTLA-4, GITR, and PD-1 on Treg cells were detected by flow cytometry. Levels of Treg-related cytokines, including IL-35, TGF-β1, and IL-10, were measured by customised multiplex cytokine assays using the Luminex platform. Results: The frequency of Tregs was higher in chronic patients than in healthy controls (P = 0.026) and acute patients (P = 0.042); The frequency of CTLA-4+ Tregs in chronic patients was significantly higher than that in healthy controls (P = 0.011). The frequencies of GITR+ and PD-1+ Tregs were significantly higher in acute and chronic patients than in healthy controls (P < 0.05), with no significant difference between the acute and chronic groups (all P > 0.05). Serum TGF-β1 levels were higher in chronic patients (P = 0.029) and serum IL-10 levels were higher in acute patients (P = 0.033) than in healthy controls. We detected weak correlations between serum TGF-β1 levels and the frequencies of Tregs (R = 0.309, P = 0.031) and CTLA-4+ Tregs (R = 0.302, P = 0.035). Conclusions: Treg cell immunity is involved in the chronicity of Brucella infection and indicates the implication of Tregs in the prognosis of brucellosis. CTLA-4 and TGF-β1 may contribute to Tregs-mediated immunosuppression in the chronic infection stage of a Brucella infection.

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Sun, H. L., Du, X. F., Tang, Y. X., Li, G. Q., Yang, S. Y., Wang, L. H., … Jiang, R. M. (2021). Impact of immune checkpoint molecules on FoxP3+ Treg cells and related cytokines in patients with acute and chronic brucellosis. BMC Infectious Diseases, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-021-06730-3

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