Profibrotic cells derived from circulating CD14+ monocytes include fibrocytes and alternatively activated macrophages. These cells are associated with interstitial lung disease (ILD) and are implicated in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc); however, the simultaneous presence of profibrotic cells and their associated mediators in the circulation of these patients has not been defined. We hypothesized that monocytes from patients with SSc-related ILD (SSc-ILD) would show profibrotic characteristics when compared with normal controls. We recruited patients with SSc-ILD (n=12) and normal controls (n=27) and quantified circulating collagen-producing cells by flow cytometry for CD45 and pro-collagen I. The in vitro activation potential of CD14+ monocytes in response to lipopolysaccharide was assessed using flow cytometry for CD163, and by ELISA for CCL18 and IL-10 secretion. Profibrotic mediators in plasma were quantified using Luminexbased assays. The concentration of circulating collagen-producing cells was increased in the SSc-ILD patients when compared with controls. These cells were composed of both CD34+ fibrocytes and a population of CD34+CD14+ cells. Cultured CD14+ monocytes from SSc-ILD patients revealed a profibrotic phenotype characterized by expression of CD163 and by enhanced secretion of CCL18 and IL-10 in response to proinflammatory activation. Plasma levels of IL-10, MCP-1, IL-1RA, and TNF levels were significantly elevated in the plasma of the SSc-ILD cohort. Subgroup analysis of the normal controls revealed that unlike the subjects ≤35 years, subjects ≥60 years old showed higher levels of circulating CD34+CD14+ cells, collagen-producing CD14+ monocytes, CD163+ monocytes, IL-4, IL-10, IL-13, MCP-1, and CCL18. These data indicate that the blood of patients with SSc-ILD and of healthy aged controls is enriched for fibrocytes, profibrotic monocytes, and fibrosis-associated mediators. Investigations defining the factors responsible for this peripheral blood profile may provide new insight into SSc-ILD as well as the pathophysiology of aging.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by awards from the NIH (P30AR053495-01A1, K08 HL079066, UL1 RR024139, and N01 A150031) an Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr Scholar Award, funds from the Yale Department of Medicine, and Promedior, Inc. (all to ELH).
- Alternative activation
- Pulmonary fibrosis