Background: Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV) is an autoimmune disease that affects small- to medium-sized blood vessels. Despite treatments having been improved, patients often experience disease relapses. It remains unclear how the immune cells involve in the development of vasculitis and how they fluctuate over the course of treatment. In this study, we aimed to identify the immune subsets and serum cytokines associated with disease relapse by comprehensive immuno-phenotyping in AAV patients. Methods: We reviewed consecutive patients (n = 29) from Keio University Hospital who had been newly diagnosed with AAV from January 2015 to February 2019 and chronologically followed until 52 weeks. Numbers of circulating T cells, B cells, monocytes, and granulocytes were analyzed by flow cytometry (FACS). Serum levels of cytokines were measured by electrochemiluminescence enzyme immunoassay. Clinical information was obtained from patients' records and association with time-course changes in immuno-phenotypes and serum levels of cytokines were assessed. Results: Comprehensive immuno-phenotyping data from 161 samples from 29 AAV patients at diagnosis; at weeks 4, 12, 24, and 52 of treatment; and at time of major relapse were examined. FACS analysis from patients with relapse revealed that CD14++ CD16+ intermediate monocytes and plasma cells concomitantly changed associated with disease relapse, which were independent from treatment regimen, ANCA status, or disease phenotype. In particular, the number of CD14++ CD16+ intermediate monocytes at relapse was significantly higher than that in remission or in healthy controls. Serum cytokine measurement revealed that changes of monocyte-derived proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α were associated with disease status. Conclusions: Chronological changes in CD14++ CD16+ intermediate monocyte counts can be a marker of disease relapse in AAV patients.
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