CD4 Th cells producing the proinflammatory cytokine IL-17 (Th17) have been implicated in a number of inflammatory arthritides including the spondyloarthritides. Th17 development is promoted by IL-23. Ankylosing spondylitis, the most common spondyloarthritis (SpA), is genetically associated with both HLA-B27 (B27) and IL-23R polymorphisms; however, the link remains unexplained. We have previously shown that B27 can form H chain dimers (termed B27(2)), which, unlike classical HLA-B27, bind the killer-cell Ig-like receptor KIR3DL2. In this article, we show that B27(2)-expressing APCs stimulate the survival, proliferation, and IL-17 production of KIR3DL2(+) CD4 T cells. KIR3DL2(+) CD4 T cells are expanded and enriched for IL-17 production in the blood and synovial fluid of patients with SpA. Despite KIR3DL2(+) cells comprising a mean of just 15% of CD4 T in the peripheral blood of SpA patients, this subset accounted for 70% of the observed increase in Th17 numbers in SpA patients compared with control subjects. TCR-stimulated peripheral blood KIR3DL2(+) CD4 T cell lines from SpA patients secreted 4-fold more IL-17 than KIR3DL2(+) lines from controls or KIR3DL2(-) CD4 T cells. Strikingly, KIR3DL2(+) CD4 T cells account for the majority of peripheral blood CD4 T cell IL-23R expression and produce more IL-17 in the presence of IL-23. Our findings link HLA-B27 with IL-17 production and suggest new therapeutic strategies in ankylosing spondylitis/SpA.
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Antigen-Presenting Cells, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cell Line, Cell Proliferation, Cell Survival, Coculture Techniques, Female, HLA-B27 Antigen, Humans, Interleukin-17, Lymphocyte Activation, Male, Protein Multimerization, Receptors, Interleukin, Receptors, KIR3DL2, Spondylitis, Ankylosing, Superantigens, Th17 Cells