BST-2 Levels in Salivary Glands Correlate with Markers of Disease Activity in Sjögren’s Patients, Study Finds

BST-2 Levels in Salivary Glands Correlate with Markers of Disease Activity in Sjögren’s Patients, Study Finds

Levels of BST-2 — a molecule involved in fighting virus infections — in salivary glands correlate with disease activity in patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome, and may serve as a biomarker for diagnosing the condition, a study suggests.

The study, “Aberrant expression of the innate restriction factor bone marrow stromal antigen-2 in primary Sjögren’s syndrome,” was published in the Journal of Cranio-Maxillo-Facial Surgery

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease characterized by the infiltration of immune cells into certain glands, including those that produce tears or saliva. As a consequence, glands become damaged and patients often experience dry eyes and mouth.

The mechanisms leading to Sjögren’s are not yet fully recognized, but scientists point to viral infections as a trigger for the condition in people with a genetic susceptibility.

BST-2 is a molecule of the immune system that plays a key role in fighting viruses by preventing new viral particles from exiting infected cells. But studies also point to BST-2 as a potential player in autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple sclerosis.

The role of BST-2 in Sjögren’s syndrome, however, has not been addressed. To that end, researchers in Shanghai, China, examined levels of BST-2 in the labial glands — minor salivary glands in the lips — and in immune cells from primary Sjögren’s syndrome patients.

The study included 30 women (ages 27-76) who fulfilled the American-European Consensus Group Criteria for primary Sjögren’s syndrome, and 30 healthy women (ages 24-70) who served as controls.

Patients with the condition showed higher levels of BST-2 in their salivary glands, and more BST-2-positive cells infiltrating these glands, compared with controls.

Also, B-cells and monocytes — cells of the innate immune system — from Sjögren’s patients produced more of this protein than B-cells and monocytes from control subjects. However, both groups had similar BST-2 levels in their T-cells — immune cells that eliminate threats. 

“BST-2 maintains the adhesion of monocytes to [blood vessels] and may serve to amplify the immune response, which may explain the increased BST-2 expression in monocytes” of Sjögren’s syndrome patients, researchers said.

Investigators discovered that patients with higher BST-2 levels in their salivary glands had increased blood levels of rheumatoid factor and β2-microglobulin — markers of disease activity. These patients also had enlarged parotid glands — major salivary glands behind the jaw — a common manifestation of the condition.

The presence of antibodies against DNA and nuclear proteins, particularly anti-Ro and anti-La antibodies, is a hallmark of Sjögren’s syndrome. Researchers found that levels of BST-2 were higher in patients with anti-Ro antibodies, compared to those without these autoantibodies.

Together, the findings suggest that “BST-2 is related to disease activity and may be a biomarker for diagnosis,” the researchers said. “Further studies are needed to investigate the mechanisms of BST-2 on [primary Sjögren’s syndrome] development and progression.”

Inês holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, where she specialized in blood vessel biology, blood stem cells, and cancer. Before that, she studied Cell and Molecular Biology at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and worked as a research fellow at Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologias and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. Inês currently works as a Managing Science Editor, striving to deliver the latest scientific advances to patient communities in a clear and accurate manner.
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Inês holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, where she specialized in blood vessel biology, blood stem cells, and cancer. Before that, she studied Cell and Molecular Biology at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and worked as a research fellow at Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologias and Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. Inês currently works as a Managing Science Editor, striving to deliver the latest scientific advances to patient communities in a clear and accurate manner.
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