Department of Internal Medicine, Centre for Rheumatic Diseases, Tampere University Hospital; and Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland.
Objectives: The proprotein convertase enzyme FURIN is a critical regulator of the anti-inflammatory TGFβ-1 cytokine and peripheral immune tolerance. In T cells, FURIN is co-regulated with IFN-γ and thus highly expressed in T helper 1 type cells. Previous studies have demonstrated that FURIN is upregulated in inflammatory conditions, including atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Here, we evaluated the levels of FURIN in the plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) and in healthy controls.
Methods: FURIN plasma levels were determined by ELISA, and the mRNA expression in PBMCs was quantitated using qPCR. FURIN levels in the plasma were correlated with the clinical and demographic characteristics of the patients.
Results: FURIN was found to be significantly upregulated at both the protein and mRNA level in pSS patients compared to healthy controls. In pSS patients, high FURIN protein levels were significantly associated with elevated IFN-γ levels in the plasma as well as a longer duration of sicca symptoms in the eyes. pSS patients with high FURIN levels in their plasma showed a trend towards lower levels of serum beta-2 microglobulin, ESR and a lower systemic disease activity index ESSDAI.
Conclusions: The proprotein convertase FURIN is significantly upregulated in pSS. Elevated FURIN levels associate with high levels of the Th1 type cytokine IFN-γ and long duration of dry eye symptoms. Patients with high FURIN levels show signs of lower disease activity suggesting that FURIN might have a protective role in pSS.
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