Background-In giant cell arteritis (GCA), vasculitic damage of the aorta and its branches is combined with a syndrome of intense systemic inflammation. Therapeutically, glucocorticoids remain the gold standard because they promptly and effectively suppress acute manifestations; however, they fail to eradicate vessel wall infiltrates. The effects of glucocorticoids on the systemic and vascular components of GCA are not understood. Methods and Results-The immunoprofile of untreated and glucocorticoid-treated GCA was examined in peripheral blood and temporal artery biopsies with protein quantification assays, flow cytometry, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, and immunohistochemistry. Plasma interferon-γ and interleukin (IL)-17 and frequencies of interferon-γ-producing and IL-17-producing T cells were markedly elevated before therapy. Glucocorticoid treatment suppressed the Th17 but not the Th1 arm in the blood and the vascular lesions. Analysis of monocytes/macrophages in the circulation and in temporal arteries revealed glucocorticoid-mediated suppression of Th17-promoting cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-23) but sparing of Th1-promoting cytokines (IL-12). In human artery-severe combined immunodeficiency mouse chimeras, in which patient-derived T cells cause inflammation of engrafted human temporal arteries, glucocorticoids were similarly selective in inhibiting Th17 cells and leaving Th1 cells unaffected. Conclusions-Two pathogenic pathways mediated by Th17 and Th1 cells contribute to the systemic and vascular manifestations of GCA. IL-17-producing Th17 cells are sensitive to glucocorticoid-mediated suppression, but interferon-γ-producing Th1 responses persist in treated patients. Targeting steroid-resistant Th1 responses will be necessary to resolve chronic smoldering vasculitis. Monitoring Th17 and Th1 frequencies can aid in assessing disease activity in GCA.
- Th1 cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)