Cytokine Milieu in Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease: a Comprehensive Review

Britt Nakken, Edit Bodolay, Peter Szodoray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD) is a unique clinical entity, a potential forerunner of well-established systemic autoimmune/rheumatic diseases. UCTD is characterized by the presence of various clinical symptoms, as well as a diverse repertoire of autoantibodies, resembling systemic autoimmune diseases. Since approximately one third of these patients consequently transform into a full-blown systemic autoimmune/rheumatic disease, it is of major importance to assess pathogenic factors leading to this progression. In view of the fact that the serological and clinical picture of UCTD and systemic autoimmune diseases are very similar, it is assumed that analogous pathogenic factors perpetuate both disease entities. In systemic autoimmune conditions, a quantitative and qualitative impairment of regulatory T cells has been shown previously, and in parallel, a relative dominance of pro-inflammatory Th17 cells has been introduced. Moreover, the imbalance between regulatory and Th17 cells plays a pivotal role in the initiation and propagation of UCTD. Additionally, we depict a cytokine imbalance, which give raise to a biased T cell homeostasis from the UCTD phase throughout the fully developed systemic autoimmune disease stage. The levels of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-12, IL-17, IL-23, and interferon (IFN)-γ were pathologically increased with a parallel reduction of IL-10. We believe that the assessment of Th17/Treg cell ratio, as well as the simultaneous quantitation of cytokines may give a useful diagnostic tool at the early UCTD stage to identify patients with a higher chance of consecutive disease progression toward serious systemic autoimmune diseases. Moreover, the early targeted immunomodulating therapy in these patients may decelerate, or even stop this progression, before the development of serious autoimmune conditions with organ damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-162
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Cytokine imbalance
  • Disease progression
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Systemic autoimmune diseases
  • Th17 cells
  • Undifferentiated connective tissue disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy

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