Downregulation of TIM-3 mRNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

<div><p>The T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain (TIM) family is associated with autoimmune diseases, but its expression level in the immune cells of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients is not known. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the expression of TIM-3 mRNA is associated with pathogenesis of SLE. Quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis (qRT-PCR) was used to determine TIM-1, TIM-3, and TIM-4 mRNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 132 patients with SLE and 62 healthy controls. The PBMC surface protein expression of TIMs in PBMCs from 20 SLE patients and 15 healthy controls was assayed by flow cytometry. Only TIM-3 mRNA expression decreased significantly in SLE patients compared with healthy controls (P<0.001). No significant differences in TIM family protein expression were observed in leukocytes from SLE patients and healthy controls (P>0.05). SLE patients with lupus nephritis (LN) had a significantly lower expression of TIM-3 mRNA than those without LN (P=0.001). There was no significant difference in the expression of TIM-3 mRNA within different classes of LN (P>0.05). Correlation of TIM-3 mRNA expression with serum IgA was highly significant (r=0.425, P=0.004), but was weakly correlated with total serum protein (rs=0.283, P=0.049) and serum albumin (rs=0.297, P=0.047). TIM-3 mRNA expression was weakly correlated with the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI; rs=-0.272, P=0.032). Our results suggest that below-normal expression of TIM-3 mRNA in PBMC may be involved in the pathogenesis of SLE.</p></div>