Single cell analysis of spondyloarthritis regulatory T cells identifies distinct synovial gene expression patterns and clonal fates.
Simone D., Penkava F., Ridley A., Sansom S., Al-Mossawi MH., Bowness P.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play an important role in controlling inflammation and limiting autoimmunity, but their phenotypes at inflammatory sites in human disease are poorly understood. We here analyze the single-cell transcriptome of >16,000 Tregs obtained from peripheral blood and synovial fluid of two patients with HLA-B27+ ankylosing spondylitis and three patients with psoriatic arthritis, closely related forms of inflammatory spondyloarthritis. We identify multiple Treg clusters with distinct transcriptomic profiles, including, among others, a regulatory CD8+ subset expressing cytotoxic markers/genes, and a Th17-like RORC+ Treg subset characterized by IL-10 and LAG-3 expression. Synovial Tregs show upregulation of interferon signature and TNF receptor superfamily genes, and marked clonal expansion, consistent with tissue adaptation and antigen contact respectively. Individual synovial Treg clones map to different clusters indicating cell fate divergence. Finally, we demonstrate that LAG-3 directly inhibits IL-12/23 and TNF secretion by patient-derived monocytes, a mechanism with translational potential in SpA. Our detailed characterization of Tregs at an important inflammatory site illustrates the marked specialization of Treg subpopulations.