Th17 cells contribute to the pathology of autoimmune hypophysitis

Paulina Chalan, Nithya Thomas, Patrizio Caturegli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Autoimmune hypophysitis is classified as primary if its origin is idiopathic and secondary if it develops as a consequence of treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Expanding use of immunotherapy has been paralleled by the increasing hypophysitis prevalence. However, understanding of the immune responses driving the disease remains limited. Using a mouse model of primary hypophysitis, we have identified CD4+ T lymphocytes to be the main pituitary-infiltrating immune cell population. Functional analysis showed that they display a Th17 and Th1/Th17 phenotype. To examine involvement of proinflammatory Th1, Th17, and Th1/17 subsets in hypophysitis, we have isolated RNA from the formalin-fixed paraffinembedded pituitary specimens from 16 hypophysitis patients (three of whom had hypophysitis secondary to immune checkpoint inhibitors), 10 patients with adenoma, and 23 normal pituitaries obtained at autopsy. Transcript levels of IFN-γ, IL-17A, IL-4, IL-10, TGF-β, CD4, CD8a, and class II MHC transactivator were analyzed by the reverse transcription_quantitative PCR (RTqPCR). Pituitary glands of patients with hypophysitis showed significantly higher IL-17A, CD4, and class II MHC transactivator mRNA levels compared with adenoma and normal pituitaries. All three secondary hypophysitis patients showed detectable IL- 17A levels, but other cytokines were not detected in their pituitaries. Levels of IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-10, and TGF-β did not differ between the groups. TGF-β transcript was found in significantly fewer hypophysitis pituitaries (2 out of 16) compared with adenoma (7 out of 10) and normal pituitaries (11 out of 23). Presence of TGF-β in two hypophysitis patients was associated with significantly lower IL-17A mRNA levels compared with hypophysitis patients with no detectable TGF-β (p = 0.03).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2536-2543
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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