Background: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease where controversy on Th1/Th2 balance dominates. We investigated whether the recently discovered Th17 pattern was present in SSc. Methodology and Principal Findings: Patients were subdivided as having limited cutaneous SSc (lcSSc, n = 12) or diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc, n = 24). A further arbitrary subdivision was made between early dcSSc (n = 11) and late dcSSc (n = 13) based upon the duration of disease. As a comparator group 14 healthy controls were studied. CD3+ cells were isolated using FACS and subsequently studied for the expression of CD4, CD8, CD25, CD45Ro, CD45Ra, IL-23, GITR, CD69 and intracellular expression of IL-17, TGFβ and IFNγ using flow cytometry. Levels of IL-17, IL-6, IL-1α and IL-23 were measured using Bioplex assays. SSc patients had more and more activated CD4+ cells. In addition, CD4, CD45Ro and CD45Ra cells from all SSc patients highly expressed the IL23R, which was associated with a higher IL-17 expression as well. In contrast, IFNγ and TGFβ were selectively up regulated in SSc subsets. In line with these observation, circulating levels of IL-17 inducing cytokines IL-6, IL-23 and IL-1α were increased in all or subsets of SSc patients. Conclusion and Significance: The combination of IL-17, IFNγ and TGFβ levels in CD45Ro and CD45Ra cells from SSc patients is useful to distinguish between lSSc, ldSSc or edSSc. Blocking Th17 inducing cytokines such as IL-6 and IL-23 may provide a useful tool to intervene in the progression of SSc.,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Radstake, T., van Bon, L., Broen, J., Hussiani, A., Hesselstrand, R., Wuttge, D., … Lafyatis, R. (2009). The pronounced Th17 profile in systemic sclerosis (SSc) together with intracellular expression of TGFβ and IFNγ distinguishes SSc phenotypes. PLoS ONE, 4(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005903