In rheumatoid arthritis, T cells and B cells participate in the immune responses evolving in the synovial lesions. Interaction between T cells and B cells is probably antigen specific because complex microstructures typical of secondary lymphoid organs are generated. Differences between patients in forming follicles with germinal centers, T-cell–B-cell aggregates without germinal center reactions, or loosely organized T-cell–B-cell infiltrates might reflect the presence of different antigens or a heterogeneity in host response patterns to immune injury. Tertiary lymphoid microstructures in the rheumatoid lesions can enhance the sensitivity of antigen recognition, optimize the collaboration of immunoregulatory and effector cells, and support the interaction between the tissue site and the aberrant immune response. The molecular basis of lymphoid organogenesis studied in gene-targeted mice will provide clues to why the synovium is a preferred site for tertiary lymphoid tissue. B cells have a critical role in lymphoid organogenesis. Their contribution to synovial inflammation extends beyond antibody secretion and includes the activation and regulation of effector T cells.
Keywords: antigen-presenting cells, autoimmunity, germinal center, lymphoid organogenesis, pathogenesis, tertiary lymphoid tissue