The persistence of activated T cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovium may be attributable to increased homing, increased retention or a possible imbalance between cell proliferation and programmed cell death. Induction of apoptosis may represent a potential therapeutic approach. Galactoxylomannan (GalXM) from the opportunistic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans can interact with T cells and induce T-cell apoptosis through the inhibition of CD45 phosphatase activity. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of GalXM on circulating T cells from patients with RA and the underlying mechanisms. GalXM immunomodulating effect on apoptosis and signal transduction pathway involved in IL-17A production was evaluated on T cells. RA T-cell apoptosis, higher than that of control T cells, was further increased by GalXM through induction of caspase-3 activation. Activated T cells expressing the CD45RO molecule and producing IL-17A were the main target of GalXM-induced apoptosis. GalXM induced consistent impairment of IL-17A production and inhibition of STAT3, which was hyperactivated in RA. In conclusion, GalXM triggered apoptosis of activated memory T cells and interfered with IL-17A production in RA. These data suggest therapeutic targeting of deleterious Th17 cells in RA and other autoimmune diseases.
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