Clinicopathological and immunological features of follicular pancreatitis – a distinct disease entity characterised by Th17 activation
AIM: Follicular pancreatitis is a recently recognised, distinct clinicopathological entity characterised by the presence of many intrapancreatic lymphoid follicles with reactive germinal centres. However, the clinicopathological and immunological features and causes have not yet been established. We assessed the clinicopathological and immunological profiles of patients with follicular pancreatitis who underwent surgery. METHODS AND RESULTS: This study included three patients with pancreatic masses (age range = 62-75 years; women:men: 1:2). A histopathological study of the resected pancreatic masses revealed abundant lymphoid follicles with reactive germinal centres in both periductal regions and diffusely within the parenchyma. No storiform fibrosis, obliterative phlebitis or granulocytic epithelial lesions were observed. The immunohistochemical examination revealed an IgG4/IgG-positive plasma cell ratio <30% in all patients. Podoplanin (Th17 marker)-expressing lymphocytes were present in the lymphoid follicles of those with follicular pancreatitis, whereas these were absent in normal lymph nodes and in lymphoid follicles of those with IgG4-related autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP). An RNA digital counting assay clearly demonstrated that the expression counts of 20 genes, including dendritic cells and lymphoid follicles markers, and related cytokines were significantly higher in follicular pancreatitis than in IgG4-related AIP (P < 0.01). The expressions of CCR6 and IL23A, which are genes related to Th17, were high. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that follicular pancreatitis is a histopathologically and immunologically distinct disease entity of pancreatitis and is characterised by upregulated Th17 expression.