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Sex differences in autoimmunity could be associated with altered regulatory T cell phenotype and lipoprotein metabolism

By George A Robinson, Kirsty E Waddington, Marsilio Adriani, Anna Radziszewska, Hannah Peckham, David. A Isenberg, Yiannis Ioannou, Coziana Ciurtin, Inés Pineda-Torra, Elizabeth C Jury

Posted 08 Sep 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/760975

Male and female immune responses are known to differ resulting in an increased prevalence of autoimmunity in women. Here sex differences in T-cell subset frequency and function during adolescence were examined in healthy donors and patients with the autoimmune disease juvenile (J)SLE; onset of JSLE commonly occurs during puberty suggesting a strong hormonal influence. Healthy adolescent males had increased regulatory T-cell (Treg) frequency, and increased Treg suppressive capacity and IL-4 production compared to healthy adolescent females. The T-helper 2-like profile in male Tregs was associated with increased expression of GATA3 which correlated significantly with elevated Treg plasma membrane glycosphingolipid expression. Differential Treg phenotype was associated with unique serum metabolomic profiles in males compared to female adolescents. Notably, very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) metabolomic signatures correlated positively with activated Tregs in males but with resting Tregs in females. Consistently, only VLDL isolated from male serum was able to induce increased Treg IL-4 production and glycosphingolipid expression following in cultured cells. Remarkably, gender differences in Treg frequency, phenotype and function and serum metabolomic profiles were lost in adolescents with JSLE. This work provides evidence that a combination of pubertal development, immune cell defects and dyslipidemia may contribute to JSLE pathogenesis.

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