Dual roles of immunoregulatory cytokine TGF-β in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity-mediated organ damage

Vijay Saxena, Douglas W. Lienesch, Min Zhou, Ramireddy Bommireddy, Mohamad Azhar, Thomas Doetschman, Ram Raj Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Ample evidence suggests a role of TGF-β in preventing autoimmunity. Multiorgan inflammatory disease, spontaneous activation of self-reactive T cells, and autoantibody production are hallmarks of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. These features are reminiscent of the immunopathology manifest in TGF-β1-deficient mice. In this study, we show that lupus-prone (New Zealand Black and White)F1 mice have reduced expression of TGF-β1 in lymphoid tissues, and TGF-β1 or TGF-β1-producing T cells suppress autoantibody production. In contrast, the expression of TGF-β1 protein and mRNA and TGF-β signaling proteins (TGF-β receptor type II and phosphorylated SMAD3) increases in the target organs, i.e., kidneys, of these mice as they age and develop progressive organ damage. In fact, the levels of TGF-β1 in kidney tissue and urine correlate with the extent of chronic lesions that represent local tissue fibrosis. In vivo TGF-β blockade by treatment of these mice with an anti-TGF-β Ab selectively inhibits chronic fibrotic lesions without affecting autoantibody production and the inflammatory component of tissue injury. Thus, TGF-β plays a dual, seemingly paradoxical, role in the development of organ damage in multiorgan autoimmune diseases. According to our working model, reduced TGF-β in immune cells predisposes to immune dysregulation and autoantibody production, which causes tissue inflammation that triggers the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as TGF-β in target organs to counter inflammation. Enhanced TGF-β in target organs, in turn, can lead to dysregulated tissue repair, progressive fibrogenesis, and eventual end-organ damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1903-1912
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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