Human orbital fibroblasts are activated through CD40 to induce proinflammatory cytokine production.
CD40 is an important signaling and activation antigen found on certain bone marrow-derived cells. Recently, CD40 has also been shown to be expressed by nonhematopoietic cells, including certain human fibroblasts, but not others. Little is known about the function of CD40 on fibroblasts. The current study investigates the hypothesis that CD40 is expressed on orbital fibroblasts and represents a pathway for interaction between these fibroblasts and CD40 ligand-expressing cells, such as T lymphocytes and mast cells. We report here that orbital connective tissue fibroblasts, obtained from normal donors and from patients with severe thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO), express functional CD40. CD40 is upregulated approximately 10-fold by interferon-gamma (500 U/ml) treatment for 72 h. These fibroblasts become activated through triggering of CD40 with CD40 ligand (CD40L). This is evidenced by nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappa B and induction of the proinflammatory and chemoattractant cytokines interleukin-6 and interleukin-8, respectively. These data support the concept that cognate interactions between orbital fibroblasts and infiltrating T lymphocytes, via the CD40-CD40L pathway, may promote the tissue remodeling observed in TAO and other inflammatory diseases of the orbit. Disruption of the CD40-CD40L interaction may represent a therapeutic intervention to reduce the inflammatory components of TAO, which remains a vexing clinical problem.
Sempowski, GD; Rozenblit, J; Smith, TJ; Phipps, RP
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