2018 Volume 244 Issue 2 Pages 123-131
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an autoimmune liver disease. Its histological characteristics, such as progressive intrahepatic bile duct destruction, cholestasis, and liver cirrhosis, are caused by the body’s autoimmune disorders. Interleukin (IL)-35 has two subunits (p35 and Ebi3) and is a member of the IL-12 family of heterodimeric cytokines. IL-35 has immunosuppressive functions and plays an important role in many autoimmune diseases. In this study, we compared plasma levels of IL-35 and relative mRNA expression levels of p35 and Ebi3 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 70 PBC patients and 70 healthy individuals. The results showed that the relative expression levels of Ebi3 mRNA were lower in PBMCs from PBC patients than in PBMCs from healthy individuals, whereas the levels of p35 mRNA were similar in both groups. Plasma IL-35 concentrations were lower in patients with PBC than in healthy individuals. Plasma levels were higher in PBC patients at an advanced stage compared to patients at an early stage. Variable plasma levels with different stages were also found in transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), which is mainly produced by regulatory T cells (Tregs). IL-35 and TGF-β levels were positively correlated with each other, and IL-35 was capable of promoting the inhibitory functions of Tregs in PBC patients at both the early and late stages of disease. Lower plasma IL-35 levels were accompanied by higher levels of typical clinical parameters, such as alkaline phosphatase, or of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), in PBC patients (P < 0.05 for each). We propose that IL-35 may be involved in the pathogenesis of PBC and could be a potential biomarker for diagnosing this disease.