Th22 cells are associated with hepatocellular carcinoma development and progression


OBJECTIVE: IL-22-producing CD4(+) T helper cells (Th22 cells) have been identified as major inducers of tissue inflammation and immune responses. Currently, no previous study explored the role of Th22 cells in the pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The study aimed to determine the biological function of Th22 cells and its effector IL-22 in HCC patients. METHODS: Forty-five HCC patients and 19 healthy controls were recruited and their peripheral blood was collected. The fresh HCC tissues, adjacent HCC tissues and ten normal liver tissues were also collected. Flow cytometry analysis was used to determine the frequencies of circulating Th22 cells and Th17 cells. Serum IL-22 levels were tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Immunohistochemical staining and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to detect IL-22 protein and mRNA in tissues specimens, respectively. RESULTS: Circulating Th22 cells, Th17 cells and serum IL-22 levels were significantly elevated in HCC patients compared with those of healthy controls (P<0.001). Th22 cells were showed to be positively correlated with IL-22 in HCC patients (P<0.05), but not in healthy controls. No significant differences were found in HCC patients with HBeAg positivity or negativity in term of Th22 cells and serum IL-22 levels. The expression of IL-22 protein and mRNA was highest in HCC tissues, followed by adjacent HCC tissues and normal liver tissues. Furthermore, Th22 cells, serum IL-22 levels and IL-22 mRNA were elevated at stage III-IV compared with stage I-II of HCC (P<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Elevation of circulating Th22 cells and IL-22 may be implicated in the pathogenesis of HCC, and potentially be cellular targets for therapeutic intervention.

Chinese journal of cancer research = Chung-kuo yen cheng yen chiu