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1.  Kitasato symposium 2010: new prospects for cytokines 
The Second Kitasato Symposium: New Prospects for Cytokines brought together researchers and rheumatologists to consider the essential role of cytokines in health and their contributions to autoimmunity. Topics addressed during the Symposium - which was held in Berlin, Germany from 27 to 29 May 2010 - included established and new cytokine targets in arthritis and autoimmunity and innovative aspects of osteoimmunology as well as current perspectives from translational and clinical studies. The keynote lecture, delivered by George Kollias, focused on insights gained from animal models into the mechanisms of TNF function in chronic inflammation and autoimmunity. The presentations at the Symposium resulted in productive discussions regarding potential new targets for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders.
doi:10.1186/ar3196
PMCID: PMC3046527  PMID: 21235827
2.  Cytokine-Modulating Strategies and Newer Cytokine Targets for Arthritis Therapy 
Cytokines are the key mediators of inflammation in the course of autoimmune arthritis and other immune-mediated diseases. Uncontrolled production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interferon-γ (IFN-γ), tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and IL-17 can promote autoimmune pathology, whereas anti-inflammatory cytokines including IL-4, IL-10, and IL-27 can help control inflammation and tissue damage. The pro-inflammatory cytokines are the prime targets of the strategies to control rheumatoid arthritis (RA). For example, the neutralization of TNFα, either by engineered anti-cytokine antibodies or by soluble cytokine receptors as decoys, has proven successful in the treatment of RA. The activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines can also be downregulated either by using specific siRNA to inhibit the expression of a particular cytokine or by using small molecule inhibitors of cytokine signaling. Furthermore, the use of anti-inflammatory cytokines or cytokine antagonists delivered via gene therapy has proven to be an effective approach to regulate autoimmunity. Unexpectedly, under certain conditions, TNFα, IFN-γ, and few other cytokines can display anti-inflammatory activities. Increasing awareness of this phenomenon might help develop appropriate regimens to harness or avoid this effect. Furthermore, the relatively newer cytokines such as IL-32, IL-34 and IL-35 are being investigated for their potential role in the pathogenesis and treatment of arthritis.
doi:10.3390/ijms16010887
PMCID: PMC4307281  PMID: 25561237
autoimmunity; arthritis; biologics; cytokines; gene therapy; inflammation; interleukins; rheumatoid arthritis; siRNA
3.  Gene therapy for established murine collagen-induced arthritis by local and systemic adenovirus-mediated delivery of interleukin-4 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(4):293-302.
To determine whether IL-4 is therapeutic in treating established experimental arthritis, a recombinant adenovirus carrying the gene that encodes murine IL-4 (Ad-mIL-4) was used for periarticular injection into the ankle joints into mice with established collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). Periarticular injection of Ad-mIL-4 resulted in a reduction in the severity of arthritis and joint swelling compared with saline- and adenoviral control groups. Local expression of IL-4 also reduced macroscopic signs of joint inflammation and bone erosion. Moreover, injection of Ad-mIL-4 into the hind ankle joints resulted in a decrease in disease severity in the untreated front paws. Systemic delivery of murine IL-4 by intravenous injection of Ad-mIL-4 resulted in a significant reduction in the severity of early-stage arthritis.
Introduction:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease that is characterized by joint inflammation, and progressive cartilage and bone erosion. Recent research has identified certain biologic agents that appear more able than conventional therapies to halt effectively the progression of disease, as well as ameliorate disease symptoms. One potential problem with the use of biologic agents for arthritis therapy is the need for daily or weekly repeat dosing. The transfer of genes directly to the synovial lining can theoretically circumvent the need for repeat dosing and reduce potential systemic side effects [1,2]. However, although many genes have been effective in treating murine CIA if administrated at a time before disease onset, local intra-articular or periarticular gene transfer has not been highly effective in halting the progression of established disease. IL-4, similar to tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and IL-1 inhibitors, has been shown be therapeutic for the treatment of murine CIA when administered intravenously as a recombinant protein, either alone or in combination with IL-10. IL-4 can downregulate the production of proinflammatory and T-helper (Th)1-type cytokines by inducing mRNA degradation and upregulating the expression of inhibitors of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) [3,4]. IL-4 is able to inhibit IL-2 and IFN-γ production by Th1 cells, resulting in suppression of macrophage activation and the production of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α by monocytes and macrophages [4,5,6,7,8,9].
Objective:
In order to examine the therapeutic effects of local and systemic IL-4 expression in established CIA, an adenoviral vector carrying the gene for murine IL-4 (Ad-mIL-4) was generated. The ability of Ad-mIL-4 to treat established CIA was evaluated by local periarticular and systemic intravenous injection of Ad-mIL-4 into mice at various times after disease onset.
Materials and methods:
Male DBA/1 lacJ (H-2q) mice, aged 7-8 weeks, were purchased from The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME, USA). The mice were immunized intradermally at the base of tail with 100 μ g bovine type II collagen. On day 21 after priming, mice received a boost injection (intradermally) with 100 μ g type II collagen in incomplete adjuvant. For the synchronous onset of arthritis, 40 μ g lipopolysaccharide (Sigma, St Louis, MO, USA) was injected intraperitoneally on day 28. Ad-mIL-4 was injected periarticularly into the hind ankle joints of mice on day 32 or intravenously by tail vein injection on day 29. Disease severity was monitored every other day using an established macroscopic scoring system ranging from 0 to 4: 0, normal; 1, detectable arthritis with erythma; 2, significant swelling and redness; 3, severe swelling and redness from joint to digit; and 4, maximal swelling with ankylosis. The average of macroscopic score was expressed as a cumulative value for all paws, with a maximum possible score of 16 per mouse. Cytokine production by joint tissue or serum were assessed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN, USA).
Results:
To examine the therapeutic effects of IL-4 gene transfer in a murine model of arthritis, 5×108 particles of Ad-mIL-4 and enhanced green fluorescent protein (Ad-eGFP) were administered by periarticular injection into the ankle joints of mice with established disease 4 days after lipopolysaccharide injection. All mice had established disease at time of injection. As shown in Figure 1, the severity of arthritis (Fig. 1a), paw thickness (Fig. 1b), and the number of arthritic paws (Fig. 1c) were all significantly reduced in the Ad-mIL-4 group, compared with the saline- and Ad-eGFP-treated groups. Analysis of the bones in the ankle joints of control arthritic mice showed evidence of erosion with an associated monocytic infiltrate around the joint space compared with the Ad-mIL-4-treated and nonarthritic control joints. In addition, injection of the ankle joints in the hind legs resulted in a therapeutic effect in the front paws. A similar contralateral effect has been observed with adenoviral-mediated delivery of viral (v)-IL-10. Interestingly, a high level of murine IL-10 also was detected from the joint lysates of Ad-mIL-4-treated naïve and arthritic mice, with the production of endogenous IL-10 correlating with the dose of Ad-mIL-4. The administration of recombinant IL-4 protein systemically has been shown to be therapeutic in murine CIA models if given before disease onset. To examine the effect of systemic IL-4 delivered by gene transfer, 1×109 particles of Ad-mIL-4 were injected via the tail vein of collagen-immunized mice the day after lipopolysaccharide injection. Whereas the immunized control mice, injected with Ad-eGFP, showed disease onset on day 3 after lipopolysaccharide injection, Ad-mIL-4-treated mice showed a delay in disease onset and as a reduction in the total number of arthritic paws. Also, systemic injection of Ad-mIL-4 suppressed the severity of arthritis in CIA mice according to arthritis index.
Discussion:
Gene therapy represents a novel approach for delivery of therapeutic agents to joints in order to treat the pathologies associated with RA and osteoarthritis, as well as other disorders of the joints. In the present study we examined the ability of local periarticular and systemic gene transfer of IL-4 to treat established and early-stage murine CIA, respectively. We have demonstrated that both local and systemic administration of Ad-mIL-4 resulted in a reduction in the severity of arthritis, as well as in the number of arthritic paws. In addition, the local gene transfer of IL-4 reduced histologic signs of inflammation and of bone erosion. Interestingly, local delivery of Ad-mIL-4 was able to confer a therapeutic effect to the untreated, front paws through a currently unknown mechanism. In addition, both local and systemic expression of IL-4 resulted in an increase in the level of endogenous IL-10, as well as of IL-1Ra (data not shown). Previous experiments have shown that gene transfer of IL-10 and IL-1 and TNF inhibitors at the time of disease initiation (day 28) is therapeutic. However, delivery of these agents after disease onset appeared to have only limited therapeutic effect. In contrast, the present results demonstrate that IL-4, resulting from local periarticular and systemic injection of Ad-mIL-4, was able partially to reverse progression of established and early-stage disease, respectively. These results, as well as those of others, support the potential application of IL-4 gene therapy for the clinical treatment of RA.
PMCID: PMC17812  PMID: 11056670
adenoviral vectors; collagen-induced arthritis; gene therapy; IL-4; IL-10; rheumatoid arthritis
4.  Mast cell activation and its relation to proinflammatory cytokine production in the rheumatoid lesion 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):65-74.
Mast cell (MC) activation in the rheumatoid lesion provides numerous mediators that contribute to inflammatory and degradative processes, especially at sites of cartilage erosion. MC activation in rheumatoid synovial tissue has often been associated with tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-1β production by adjacent cell types. By contrast, our in situ and in vitro studies have shown that the production of IL-15 was independent of MC activation, and was not related to TNF-α and IL-1β expression. Primary cultures of dissociated rheumatoid synovial cells produced all three proinflammatory cytokines, with production of IL-1β exceeding that of TNF-α, which in turn exceeded that of IL-15. In vitro cultures of synovial macrophages, synovial fibroblasts and articular chondrocytes all produced detectable amounts of free IL-15, macrophages being the most effective.
Introduction:
Increased numbers of mast cells (MCs) are found in the synovial tissues and fluids of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and at sites of cartilage erosion. MC activation has been reported for a significant proportion of rheumatoid specimens. Because the MC contains potent mediators, including histamine, heparin, proteinases, leukotrienes and multifunctional cytokines, its potential contributions to the processes of inflammation and matrix degradation have recently become evident.
Proinflammatory cytokines are important mediators of inflammation, immunity, proteolysis, cell recruitment and proliferation. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) reportedly plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of RA, especially its ability to regulate interleukin (IL)-1β expression, this being important for the induction of prostanoid and matrix metalloproteinase production by synovial fibroblasts and chondrocytes. IL-15 has been assigned numerous biological effects and has been implicated as an important factor in TNF-α expression by monocyte/macrophages. Some in vitro studies have placed IL-15 upstream from TNF-α in the cytokine cascade, suggesting an interdependence between TNF, IL-1 and IL-15 for the promotion of proinflammatory cytokine expression in the rheumatoid joint.
Aims:
To examine the in situ relationships of TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-15 in relation to MC activation in rheumatoid tissues by use of immunolocalization techniques; and to compare quantitatively the proinflammatory cytokine production by specific cell cultures and rheumatoid synovial explants with and without exposure to a MC secretagogue.
Materials and methods:
Samples of rheumatoid synovial tissue and cartilage–pannus junction were obtained from patients (n = 15) with classic late-stage RA. Tissue sections were immunostained for MC (tryptase) and the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1, TNF-α and IL-15. Rheumatoid synovial tissue explants were cultured in Dulbecco's modified Eagles medium (DMEM) containing either the MC secretagogue rabbit antihuman immunoglobulin (Ig)E, or control rabbit IgG. Primary rheumatoid synovial cell cultures, human articular chondrocytes, synovial fibroblasts and synovial macrophages were prepared as described in the full article. Conditioned culture media from these cultures were collected and assayed for IL-1β, TNF-α and IL-15 using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay methodology.
Results:
Immunohistological studies of rheumatoid synovial tissues have demonstrated local concentrations of MCs in most specimens of the rheumatoid lesion. Sites of MC activation were associated with localized oedema, and TNF-α, IL-1α and IL-1β production by a proportion of mononuclear inflammatory cells. By contrast, no evidence was found for IL-15 production in tissue sites containing either intact or activated MCs, and IL-15 expression, when observed, bore no relation to tissue sites where TNF-α and IL-1β were evident. The immunodetection of IL-15 was restricted to microfocal sites and was not typical of most junctional specimens, but was associated with a proportion of articular chondrocytes in a minority of junctional specimens.
MC activation within synovial explant cultures was induced by the addition of polyclonal antibody to human IgE. MC activation significantly reduced the levels of TNF-α and IL1β released into the medium, this representing approximately 33% of control values. By contrast, MC activation had little effect on the levels of IL-15 released into the culture medium, the average value being very low in relation to the release of TNF-α and IL-1β . Thus, induced MC activation brings about changes in the amounts of released tryptase, TNF-α and IL-1β , but not of IL-15.
Four preparations of primary rheumatoid synovial cell cultures produced more IL-1β than TNF-α, with only modest values for IL-15 production, indicating that all three cytokines are produced and released as free ligands by these cultures. Of specific cell types that produced IL-15 in vitro, macrophages produced more than fibroblasts, which in turn produced more than chondrocytes. This demonstrates that all three cell types have the potential to produce IL-15 in situ.
Discussion:
The biological consequences of MC activation in vivo are extremely complex, and in all probability relate to the release of various combinations of soluble and granular factors, as well as to the expression of appropriate receptors by neighbouring cells. The subsequent synthesis and release of cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-1 may well follow at specific stages after activation, or may be an induced cytokine response by adjacent macrophagic or fibroblastic cells. However, because no IL-15 was detectable either in or around activated or intact MCs, and the induced MC activation explant study showed no change in IL-15 production, it seems unlikely that the expression of this cytokine is regulated by MCs. The immunohistochemistry (IHC) demonstration of IL-15 at sites of cartilage erosion, and especially by some chondrocytes of articular cartilage, showed no spatial relationship with either T cells or neutrophils, and suggests other functional properties in these locations. The lack of evidence for an in situ association of IL-15 with TNF and IL-1 does not support a role for IL-15 in a proinflammatory cytokine 'cascade', as proposed by other in vitro experiments. We believe that sufficient evidence is available, however, to suggest that MC activation makes a significant contribution to the pathophysiological processes of the rheumatoid lesion.
PMCID: PMC17805  PMID: 11219391
interleukin-15; interleukin-1β; mast cells; rheumatoid arthritis; tumour necrosis factor-α
5.  Regulation of Peripheral Inflammation by Spinal p38 MAP Kinase in Rats 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e338.
Background
Somatic afferent input to the spinal cord from a peripheral inflammatory site can modulate the peripheral response. However, the intracellular signaling mechanisms in the spinal cord that regulate this linkage have not been defined. Previous studies suggest spinal cord p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase and cytokines participate in nociceptive behavior. We therefore determined whether these pathways also regulate peripheral inflammation in rat adjuvant arthritis, which is a model of rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods and Findings
Selective blockade of spinal cord p38 MAP kinase by administering the p38 inhibitor SB203580 via intrathecal (IT) catheters in rats with adjuvant arthritis markedly suppressed paw swelling, inhibited synovial inflammation, and decreased radiographic evidence of joint destruction. The same dose of SB203580 delivered systemically had no effect, indicating that the effect was mediated by local concentrations in the neural compartment. Evaluation of articular gene expression by quantitative real-time PCR showed that spinal p38 inhibition markedly decreased synovial interleukin-1 and −6 and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP3) gene expression. Activation of p38 required tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) in the nervous system because IT etanercept (a TNF inhibitor) given during adjuvant arthritis blocked spinal p38 phosphorylation and reduced clinical signs of adjuvant arthritis.
Conclusions
These data suggest that peripheral inflammation is sensed by the central nervous system (CNS), which subsequently activates stress-induced kinases in the spinal cord via a TNFα-dependent mechanism. Intracellular p38 MAP kinase signaling processes this information and profoundly modulates somatic inflammatory responses. Characterization of this mechanism could have clinical and basic research implications by supporting development of new treatments for arthritis and clarifying how the CNS regulates peripheral immune responses.
Inhibition of p38 MAP kinase in the CNS reduces peripheral inflammation and joint destruction in arthritic rats.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease marked by chronic inflammation, leading to joint pain and destruction. Pain and inflammation in the joints as well as other locations in the body (i.e., the “periphery”) are constantly monitored by the central nervous system (i.e., the brain and spinal cord). Scientists have long suspected that the central nervous system (CNS) can regulate inflammation and immune responses, but little is known about how the CNS does this. One potential player is a protein called p38 that is involved in a number of cellular processes critical to the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Several substances that block the action of p38 are effective in animal models of arthritis and are currently being tested in clinical trials in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Originally, p38 was considered as a drug target that should mainly be blocked in the joints. But recent work has shown that pain in the periphery can lead to activation of p38 in the spinal cord, and that blocking p38 in the spinal cord might reduce peripheral pain.
Why Was This Study Done?
Based on the observation that p38 is activated in the CNS in response to peripheral pain, the researchers who did this study wondered whether it might be involved in the interaction between inflammation in the joints and the CNS.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They induced inflammation in the joints of rats and then looked for responses in the spinal cord. They found that p38 was indeed activated in the spinal cord of these rats. This activation depended on another protein, called TNFα, which is another major regulator of inflammation. The scientists then blocked either p38 or the TNFα with drugs directly delivered to the spinal cord of the arthritic rats, they could substantially reduce inflammation, arthritis, and destruction of the joints, compared with rats that had undergone the same treatment but received no active drug. Treatment of arthritic rats with the same amount of drugs given directly under the skin (this is called “systemic treatment”) did not have any effect on the joints.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Blocking p38 and TNFα by giving drugs systemically is known to have beneficial effects in animal models and human patients with rheumatoid arthritis. However, the drugs tested in patients to date also have side effects. Given that much lower doses were needed to achieve beneficial effects in the rats when the drugs were administered directly into the spinal cord, it is possible that spinal cord administration might reduce the side effects (and possibly the costs) of the drugs without compromising the benefits to the patients. If future studies confirm that the action of these drugs on the CNS is essential to achieve a response even when administered as a systemic treatment, designing drugs that get into the CNS easier might improve the effectiveness and/or make it possible to use lower doses systemically.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030338.
MedlinePlus entry on rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis pages from the US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Rheumatoid Arthritis fact sheet from the American College of Rheumatology Description
Wikipedia entry on rheumatoid arthritis (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030338
PMCID: PMC1560929  PMID: 16953659
6.  Distinct contribution of IL-6, TNF-α, IL-1, and IL-10 to T cell–mediated spontaneous autoimmune arthritis in mice 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;114(4):582-588.
Cytokines play key roles in spontaneous CD4+ T cell–mediated chronic autoimmune arthritis in SKG mice, a new model of rheumatoid arthritis. Genetic deficiency in IL-6 completely suppressed the development of arthritis in SKG mice, irrespective of the persistence of circulating rheumatoid factor. Either IL-1 or TNF-α deficiency retarded the onset of arthritis and substantially reduced its incidence and severity. IL-10 deficiency, on the other hand, exacerbated disease, whereas IL-4 or IFN-γ deficiency did not alter the disease course. Synovial fluid of arthritic SKG mice contained high amounts of IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1, in accord with active transcription of these cytokine genes in the afflicted joints. Notably, immunohistochemistry revealed that distinct subsets of synovial cells produced different cytokines in the inflamed synovium: the superficial synovial lining cells mainly produced IL-1 and TNF-α, whereas scattered subsynovial cells produced IL-6. Thus, IL-6, IL-1, TNF-α, and IL-10 play distinct roles in the development of SKG arthritis; arthritogenic CD4+ T cells are not required to skew to either Th1 or Th2; and the appearance of rheumatoid factor is independent of joint inflammation. The results also indicate that targeting not only each cytokine but also each cell population secreting distinct cytokines could be an effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1172/JCI200421795
PMCID: PMC503774  PMID: 15314695
7.  Elevated rheumatoid factor and long term risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective cohort study 
Objective To test whether elevated concentration of rheumatoid factor is associated with long term development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Design A prospective cohort study, the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Blood was drawn in 1981-83, and participants were followed until 10 August 2010.
Setting Copenhagen general population.
Participants 9712 white Danish individuals from the general population aged 20-100 years without rheumatoid arthritis at study entry.
Main outcome measures Rheumatoid arthritis according to baseline plasma IgM rheumatoid factor level categories of 25-50, 50.1-100, and >100, versus <25 IU/mL.
Results Rheumatoid factor levels were similar from age 20 to 100 years. During 187 659 person years, 183 individuals developed rheumatoid arthritis. In healthy individuals, a doubling in levels of rheumatoid factor was associated with a 3.3-fold (95% confidence interval 2.7 to 4.0) increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, with a similar trend for most other autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The cumulative incidence of rheumatoid arthritis increased with increasing rheumatoid factor category (Ptrend<0.0001). Multivariable adjusted hazard ratios for rheumatoid arthritis were 3.6 (95% confidence interval 1.7 to 7.3) for rheumatoid factor levels of 25-50 IU/mL, 6.0 (3.4 to 10) for 50.1-100 IU/mL, and 26 (15 to 46) for >100 IU/mL, compared with <25 IU/mL (Ptrend<0.0001). The highest absolute 10 year risk of rheumatoid arthritis of 32% was observed in 50-69 years old women who smoked with rheumatoid factor levels >100 IU/mL.
Conclusion Individuals in the general population with elevated rheumatoid factor have up to 26-fold greater long term risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and up to 32% 10 year absolute risk of rheumatoid arthritis. These novel findings may lead to revision of guidelines for early referral to a rheumatologist and early arthritis clinics based on rheumatoid factor testing.
doi:10.1136/bmj.e5244
PMCID: PMC3435445  PMID: 22956589
8.  Cytokine, activation marker, and chemokine receptor expression by individual CD4+ memory T cells in rheumatoid arthritis synovium 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(5):415-423.
IL-10, IL-13, IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, LT-α, CD154, and TNF-related activation-induced cytokine (TRANCE) were expressed by 2-20% of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial tissue CD4+ memory T cells, whereas CD4+ cells that produced IL-2, IL-4, or IL-6 were not detected. Expression of none of these molecules by individual CD4+ cells correlated with the exception of TRANCE and IL-10, and TRANCE and TNF-α . A correlation between expression of IL-10 and CCR7, LT-α and CCR6, IFN-γ and CCR5, and TRANCE and CXCR4 was also detected.
Introduction:
In RA large numbers of CD4+ memory T cells infiltrate the inflamed synovium [1,2,3]. The accumulated CD4+ memory T cells in the RA synovium appear to be activated, because they express cytokines and activation markers [4,5,6,7,8]. Expressed cytokines and activation markers should play important roles in the pathogenesis of RA. However, the frequency of cytokine expression by RA synovial CD4+ T cells has not been analyzed accurately. Recently, the roles of chemokine and chemokine receptor interactions in T-cell migration have been intensively examined. Interactions of chemokine and chemokine receptors might therefore be important in the accumulation of the CD4+ T cells in the RA synovium. Accordingly, correlation of cytokine and chemokine receptor expression might be important in delineating the function and potential means of accumulation of individual CD4+ memory T cells in the RA synovium.
In the present study we analyzed cytokine (IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-13, IFN-γ , TNF-α , and LT-α ), activation marker (CD154 [CD40 ligand] and TRANCE - also called receptor activator of nuclear factor κ B ligand [RANKL] or osteoclast differentiation factor [ODF]), and chemokine receptor expression by individual CD4+ memory T cells isolated from rheumatoid synovium and blood. To achieve this we employed a single-cell reverse transcription (RT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. This technique made it possible to correlate mRNAs expressed by individual CD4+ memory T cells in the synovium and blood.
Materials and method:
Synovial tissues from three RA patients and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from two RA patients and a normal donor were analyzed.
Cytokine (IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-13, IFN-γ, TNF-α, and LT-α ) and activation marker (CD154 and TRANCE) expression by individual CD4+CD45RO+ T cells from RA synovium or blood were analyzed using a single-cell RT-PCR. In brief, single CD4+CD45RO+T cells was sorted into each well of a 96-well PCR plate using a flow cytometer. cDNA from individual cells was prepared, and then the cDNA was nonspecifically amplified. The product was then amplified by PCR using gene-specific primers to analyze cytokine and activation marker expression.
Results:
Cytokine and activation marker expression by individual CD4+CD45RO+T cells from RA synovial tissues was analyzed using a single-cell RT-PCR method. Expression of mRNAs was analyzed in 152 individual synovial tissue CD4+CD45RO+ T cells sorted from three RA patients in which T-cell receptor (TCR) Cβ mRNA was detected. Frequencies of CD4+ memory T cells expressing cytokine and activation marker mRNA in RA synovium are shown in Table 1. IL-2, IL-4, and IL-6 were not expressed by the synovial tissue CD4+CD45RO+ T cells, whereas 2-20% of cells expressed the other cytokine mRNAs.
Few correlations between cytokine and activation marker mRNAs were observed. Notably, no cells contained both IFN-γ and LT-α mRNAs, cytokines that are thought to define the T-helper (Th)1 phenotype [9]. However, the frequency of TRANCE-positive cells in IL-10-positive cells was significantly higher than that in IL-10-negative cells (Table 2). Moreover, the frequency of TRANCE-positive cells in TNF-α-positive cells was also significantly higher than that in TNF-α-negative cells.
Varying percentages of CD4+ memory T cells expressed CC and CXC chemokine receptors. The frequency of CCR5-positive cells in IFN-γ-positive cells was significantly higher than that in IFN-γ-negative cells, whereas the frequency of CCR6-positive cells in LT-α-positive cells was significantly higher than that in LT-α-negative cells, and the frequency of CCR7-positive cells in IL-10-positive cells was significantly higher than that in IL-10-negative cells. Furthermore, the frequency of CXCR4-positive cells in TRANCE-positive cells was significantly higher than that in TRANCE-negative cells.
Expression of cytokine and activation marker mRNAs was also analyzed in 48 individual peripheral blood CD4+CD45RO+ T cells from two RA patients. IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, and LT-α were not expressed by the peripheral CD4+CD45RO+ T cells, whereas 4-17% of cells expressed the other markers. The most striking difference between synovial tissue and peripheral blood CD4+ memory T cells was the presence of LT-α expression in the former, but not in the latter. IFN-γ and TNF-α were not expressed by normal peripheral blood CD4+ memory T cells, although they were expressed by RA peripheral blood CD4+ memory T cells.
Discussion:
The present study employed a single-cell PCR technology to analyze cytokine expression by unstimulated RA synovial tissue CD4+ memory T cells immediately after isolation, without in vitro manipulation. The results confirm the Th1 nature of rheumatoid inflammation. It is noteworthy that no individual synovial CD4+ memory T cells expressed both IFN-γ and LT-α mRNAs, even though these are the prototypic Th1 cytokines [9]. These results imply that, in the synovium, regulation of IFN-γ and LT-α must vary in individual cells, even though both Th1 cytokines can be produced.
The present data showed that CCR5 expression correlated with IFN-γ but not with LT-α expression by synovial CD4+ memory T cells. It has been reported that CCR5 expression is upregulated in RA synovial fluid and synovial tissue T cells [10,11,12] and that CCR5 Δ 32 deletion may have an influence on clinical manifestations of RA [13], suggesting that CCR5 might play an important role in RA. Recently, it has been claimed that CCR5 was preferentially expressed by Th1 cell lines [14,15]. However, in the present study CCR5 was not expressed by all IFN-γ-expressing cells. Moreover, CCR5 expression did not correlate with expression of LT-α by RA synovial CD4+ memory T cells. Therefore, it is unclear whether CCR5 is a marker of Th1 cells in RA synovium.
IL-10 expression correlated with CCR7 expression by RA synovial CD4+ memory T cells. Recently, it was reported [16] that in the blood CCR7+CD4+ memory T cells express lymph-node homing receptors and lack immediate effector function, but efficiently stimulate dendritic cells. These cells may play a unique role in the synovium as opposed to in the blood. By producing IL-10, they might have an immunoregulatory function. In addition, IL-10 expression also correlated with expression of TRANCE. Although it is possible that IL-10 produced by these cells inhibited T-cell activation in the synovium, TRANCE expressed by these same cells might function to activate dendritic cells and indirectly stimulate T cells, mediating inflammation in the synovium. These results imply that individual T cells in the synovium might have different, and sometimes opposite functional activities.
LT-α expression correlated with CCR6 expression by synovial CD4+ memory T cells. It has been reported that CCR6 is expressed by resting peripheral memory T cells [17], whereas LT-α expression is associated with the presence of lymphocytic aggregates in synovial tissue [7]. The correlation between the expression of these two markers therefore suggests the possibility that CCR6 may play a role in the development of aggregates of CD4+ T cells that are characteristically found in rheumatoid synovium.
TRANCE is known to be expressed by activated T cells, and can stimulate dendritic cells and osteoclasts [18]. Of note, TRANCE-mediated activation of osteoclasts has recently been shown [19] to play an important role in the damage to bone that is found in experimental models of inflammatory arthritis. It is therefore of interest that TRANCE was expressed by 3-16% of the RA synovial CD4+ memory T cells. Of note, 67% of TNF-α-positive cells expressed TRANCE. In concert, TNF-α and TRANCE expressed by this subset of CD4+ memory T cells might make them particularly important in mediating the bony erosions that are characteristic of RA.
Interestingly, there was a correlation between expression of IFN-γ and IL-10 in RA peripheral blood CD4+ memory T cells. In RA peripheral blood, CD154 expression correlated with that of CXCR3 by CD4+ memory T cells. It has been claimed [15] that CXCR3 is preferentially expressed by in vitro generated Th1 cells. However, in the present study CXCR3 did not correlate with IFN-γ expression. Although IFN-γ and TNF-α mRNAs were expressed in vivo by peripheral blood CD4+ T cells from RA patients, LT-α mRNA was not detected, whereas IFN-γ , TNF-α , and LT-α were not detected in samples from healthy donors. These findings indicate that RA peripheral blood CD4+ memory T cells are stimulated in vivo, although they do not express LT-α mRNA. The present studies indicate that the frequencies of CD4+ memory T cells that expressed IFN-γ in the blood and in the synovium are comparable. These results imply that activated CD4+ memory T cells migrate between blood and synovium, although the direction of the trafficking is unknown. The presence of LT-α mRNA in synovium, but not in blood, indicates that CD4+ memory cells are further activated in the synovium, and that these activated CD4+ memory T cells are retained in the synovium until LT-α mRNA decreases.
In conclusion, CD4+ memory T cells are biased toward Th1 cells in RA synovium and peripheral blood. In the synovium, IFN-γ and LT-α were produced by individual cells, whereas in the rheumatoid blood no LT-α-producing cells were detected. Furthermore, there were modest correlations between individual cells that expressed particular cytokines, such as IL-10, and certain chemokine receptor mRNAs.
PMCID: PMC17818  PMID: 11056676
chemokine receptor; cytokine; rheumatoid arthritis; T lymphocyte
9.  A New Arthritis Therapy with Oxidative Burst Inducers 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e348.
Background
Despite recent successes with biological agents as therapy for autoimmune inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), many patients fail to respond adequately to these treatments, making a continued search for new therapies extremely important. Recently, the prevailing hypothesis that reactive oxygen species (ROS) promote inflammation was challenged when polymorphisms in Ncf1, that decrease oxidative burst, were shown to increase disease severity in mouse and rat arthritis models. Based on these findings we developed a new therapy for arthritis using oxidative burst-inducing substances.
Methods and Findings
Treatment of rats with phytol (3,7,11,15-tetramethyl-2-hexadecene-1-ol) increased oxidative burst in vivo and thereby corrected the effect of the genetic polymorphism in arthritis-prone Ncf1DA rats. Importantly, phytol treatment also decreased the autoimmune response and ameliorated both the acute and chronic phases of arthritis. When compared to standard therapies for RA, anti-tumour necrosis factor-α and methotrexate, phytol showed equally good or better therapeutic properties. Finally, phytol mediated its effect within hours of administration and involved modulation of T cell activation, as injection prevented adoptive transfer of disease with arthritogenic T cells.
Conclusions
Treatment of arthritis with ROS-promoting substances such as phytol targets a newly discovered pathway leading to autoimmune inflammatory disease and introduces a novel class of therapeutics for treatment of RA and possibly other chronic inflammatory diseases.
Treatment of arthritis in rats with phytol, a reactive oxygen species promoting substance, suggests a novel pathway of autoimmune inflammatory disease and possibly a novel therapeutic strategy.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic illness that affects between 0.3% and 1% of people worldwide, causing pain and swelling in joints, tendons, and other tissues, and frequently leading to permanent deformity and disability. RA involves an abnormal attack by cells of the immune system against the body's own connective tissues (so-called autoimmunity). Current drugs for RA work by counteracting the molecules that cause the pain and swelling (inflammation). By reducing the severity of autoimmune inflammation, these drugs may also reduce the disease's long-term damage to joints.
Inflammation is not always abnormal, but in fact plays an important part in the body's defense against infection. As part of their activity against disease-causing bacteria, the white blood cells known as granulocytes generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), sometimes known as “free radicals.” After engulfing invading bacteria, neutrophils release an “oxidative burst” of ROS—essentially the subcellular equivalent of pouring hydrogen peroxide on a wound to disinfect it. A complex of molecules known collectively as the NADPH oxidase complex has the specific function of generating ROS to fuel the oxidative burst. Interestingly, recent experiments in arthritis-prone rats found that animals with an altered form of one of the subunits of this complex, Ncf1, that decreased the production of ROS also had greater susceptibility to arthritis. This finding was surprising because free radicals have generally been associated with inflammation and long-term damage to cells, so that a reduction in ROS might have been expected to decrease susceptibility to an inflammatory disease like RA.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because many patients with autoimmune inflammatory illnesses like RA do not respond to currently available therapies, new approaches to treatment merit investigation. Based on the observed association between reduced ROS and increased susceptibility to arthritis, the researchers wanted to find out whether treatment with a compound that increases ROS production by the NADPH oxidase complex would cause an improvement in arthritis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers tested a compound called phytol in arthritis-prone rats to see how it affected inflammation. It is known that arthritis can be induced in these rats by injecting them with an oil called pristane. The researchers found that phytol caused a strong oxidative burst in human granulocyte cells grown in the laboratory, but did not cause arthritis in rats; whereas pristane, which does cause arthritis, caused a lower oxidative burst in the granulocytes.
They then studied whether phytol prevented arthritis in rats. They found that rats injected with phytol were protected from arthritis following a later injection of pristane. Given this result, they wanted to know if phytol increased ROS in the rats as it did in laboratory cell cultures. Studying granulocytes taken from rats that had been treated with phytol, they found that the oxidative burst of these cells was indeed increased, and remained increased for several weeks after treatment. They went on to test phytol as a treatment for active arthritis, and found that it dramatically reduced swollen joints and destruction of cartilage when given to rats with acute pristane-induced arthritis.
The beneficial effects of phytol were seen not only in rats bred with a form of Ncf1 that produces abnormally low amounts of ROS, but also in rats whose granulocytes produce normal oxidative bursts. When compared (in rats) to drugs licensed for RA (etanercept and methotrexate), phytol appeared to be at least as effective. The activity of phytol against arthritis was shown to involve T lymphocytes, as injection of phytol inhibited transfer of pristane-induced arthritis with these cells.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These experiments raise the intriguing possibility of an entirely new modality for treating autoimmune diseases; namely, through drugs designed to increase the production of ROS. This study raises a number of practical and scientific issues. For example, it is not known whether reduced capacity to produce ROS is a significant factor in human RA. Also, the connection between ROS production (by granulocytes) and autoimmune arthritis (which involves activity by T lymphocytes) remains to be clarified. Finally, the destructive effects typically associated with free radicals (such as damage to DNA and blockage of blood vessels) could complicate the use of this approach in humans, and like any new drugs, those that increase ROS production might have other, unanticipated side effects. Whatever the outcome of drug development efforts, however, this study is an excellent reminder that there are no “good” or “evil” biochemicals—in the intricacies of cellular metabolism, it's all a matter of balance.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030348.
The Arthritis Foundation: Rheumatoid Arthritis pages
Medical Inflammation Research pages (R. Holmdahl research group)
Wikipedia chapter on Rheumatoid Arthritis (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Wikipedia chapter on Reactive Oxygen Species (note: Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030348
PMCID: PMC1564167  PMID: 16968121
10.  Synovial biology and T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Events that occur in rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissues are responsible for the signs and symptoms of joint inflammation and for the eventual destruction of articular and periarticular structures that lead to joint dysfunction and disability. The three most abundant cell populations in RA synovium are synovial macrophages (type A synoviocytes), synovial fibroblasts (type B synoviocytes) and infiltrating T lymphocytes. Other important cell populations include B lymphocytes, dendritic cells, plasma cells, mast cells and osteoclasts. Our current understanding of rheumatoid arthritis is moving beyond previous concepts that view this disease as the consequence of a specific and focused humoral or cellular autoimmune response to a single autoantigen. Rather, a new view of rheumatoid arthritis is emerging, which seeks to understand this disease as the product of pathologic cell–cell interactions occurring within a unique and defined environment, the synovium. T lymphocytes in rheumatoid arthritis synovium interact closely with dendritic cells, the most potent antigen-presenting cell population in the immune system. T cells also interact with monocytes and macrophages and cytokine-activated T cells may be, especially, suited to trigger production of the important cytokine TNFα by synovial macrophages. Recent evidence also suggests a potent bidirectional interaction between synovial T cells and synovial fibroblasts, which can lead to activation of both cell types. An important role for synovial B lymphocytes has been emphasized recently, both by experimental data and by results of clinical interventions. B cells in synovium can interact with fibroblasts as well as with other cells of the immune system and their potential role as antigen-presenting cells in the joint is as yet underexplored. Rheumatoid arthritis synovium may be one of the most striking examples of pathologic, organ-specific interactions between immune system cells and resident tissue cell populations. This view of rheumatoid arthritis also leads to the prediction that novel approaches to treatment will more logically target the intercellular communication systems that maintain such interactions, rather than attempt to ablate a single cell population.
doi:10.1016/j.pathophys.2005.07.005
PMCID: PMC3533491  PMID: 16112560
T cells; B cells; Fibroblasts; Dendritic cells; Monocytes
11.  Protection against cartilage and bone destruction by systemic interleukin-4 treatment in established murine type II collagen-induced arthritis 
Arthritis Research  1999;1(1):81-91.
Destruction of cartilage and bone are hallmarks of human rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and controlling these erosive processes is the most challenging objective in the treatment of RA. Systemic interleukin-4 treatment of established murine collagen-induced arthritis suppressed disease activity and protected against cartilage and bone destruction. Reduced cartilage pathology was confirmed by both decreased serum cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and histological examination. In addition, radiological analysis revealed that bone destruction was also partially prevented. Improved suppression of joint swelling was achieved when interleukin-4 treatment was combined with low-dose prednisolone treatment. Interestingly, synergistic reduction of both serum COMP and inflammatory parameters was noted when low-dose interleukin-4 was combined with prednisolone. Systemic treatment with interleukin-4 appeared to be a protective therapy for cartilage and bone in arthritis, and in combination with prednisolone at low dosages may offer an alternative therapy in RA.
Introduction:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with an increased production of a range of cytokines including tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-1, which display potent proinflammatory actions that are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. Although TNF-α seems to be the major cytokine in the inflammatory process, IL-1 is the key mediator with regard to cartilage and bone destruction. Apart from direct blockade of IL-1/TNF, regulation can be exerted at the level of modulatory cytokines such as IL-4 and IL-10. IL-4 is a pleiotropic T-cell derived cytokine that can exert either suppressive or stimulatory effects on different cell types, and was originally identified as a B-cell growth factor and regulator of humoral immune pathways. IL-4 is produced by activated CD4+ T cells and it promotes the maturation of Th2 cells. IL-4 stimulates proliferation, differentiation and activation of several cell types, including fibroblasts, endothelial cells and epithelial cells. IL-4 is also known to be a potent anti-inflammatory cytokine that acts by inhibiting the synthesis of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1, TNF-α, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-12 by macrophages and monocytes. Moreover, IL-4 stimulates the synthesis of several cytokine inhibitors such as interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), soluble IL-1-receptor type II and TNF receptors IL-4 suppresses metalloproteinase production and stimulates tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 production in human mononuclear phagocytes and cartilage explants, indicating a protective effect of IL-4 towards extracellular matrix degradation. Furthermore, IL-4 inhibits both osteoclast activity and survival, and thereby blocks bone resorption in vitro. Of great importance is that IL-4 could not be detected in synovial fluid or in tissues. This absence of IL-4 in the joint probably contributes to the disturbance in the Th1/Th2 balance in chronic RA.
Collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) is a widely used model of arthritis that displays several features of human RA. Recently it was demonstrated that the onset of CIA is under stringent control of IL-4 and IL-10. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that exposure to IL-4 during the immunization stage reduced onset and severity of CIA. However, after cessation of IL-4 treatment disease expression increased to control values.
Aims:
Because it was reported that IL-4 suppresses several proinflammatory cytokines and matrix degrading enzymes and upregulates inhibitors of both cytokines and catabolic enzymes, we investigated the tissue protective effect of systemic IL-4 treatment using established murine CIA as a model. Potential synergy of low dosages of anti-inflammatory glucocorticosteroids and IL-4 was also evaluated.
Methods:
DBA-1J/Bom mice were immunized with bovine type II collagen and boosted at day 21. Mice with established CIA were selected at day 28 after immunization and treated for days with IL-4, prednisolone, or combinations of prednisolone and IL-4. Arthritis score was monitored visually. Joint pathology was evaluated by histology, radiology and serum cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP). In addition, serum levels of IL-1Ra and anticollagen antibodies were determined.
Results:
Treatment of established CIA with IL-4 (1 μg/day) resulted in suppression of disease activity as depicted in Figure 1. Of great interest is that, although 1 μg/day IL-4 had only a moderate effect on the inflammatory component of the disease activity, it strongly reduced cartilage pathology, as determined by histological examination (Fig. 1). Moreover, serum COMP levels were significantly reduced, confirming decreased cartilage involvement. In addition, both histological and radiological analysis showed that bone destruction was prevented (Fig. 1). Systemic IL-4 administration increased serum IL-1Ra levels and reduced anticollagen type II antibody levels. Treatment with low-dose IL-4 (0.1 μg/day) was ineffective in suppressing disease score, serum COMP or joint destruction. Synergistic suppression of both arthritis severity and COMP levels was noted when low-dose IL-4 was combined with prednisolone (0.05 mg/kg/day), however, which in itself was not effective.
Discussion:
In the present study, we demonstrate that systemic IL-4 treatment ameliorates disease progression of established CIA. Although clinical disease progression was only arrested and not reversed, clear protection against cartilage and bone destruction was noted. This is in accord with findings in both human RA and animal models of RA that show that inflammation and tissue destruction sometimes are uncoupled processes. Of great importance is that, although inflammation was still present, strong reduction in serum COMP was found after exposure to IL-4. This indicated that serum COMP levels reflected cartilage damage, although a limited contribution of the inflamed synovium cannot be excluded.
Increased serum IL-1Ra level (twofold) was found after systemic treatment with IL-4, but it is not likely that this could explain the suppression of CIA. We and others have reported that high dosages of IL-1Ra are needed for marked suppression of CIA. As reported previously, lower dosages of IL-4 did not reduce clinical disease severity of established CIA. Of importance is that combined treatment of low dosages of IL-4 and IL-10 appeared to have more potent anti-inflammatory effects, and markedly protected against cartilage destruction. Improved anti-inflammatory effect was achieved with IL-4/prednisolone treatment. In addition, synergistic effects were found for the reduction of cartilage and bone destruction. This indicates that systemic IL-4/prednisolone treatment may provide a cartilage and bone protective therapy for human RA.
Effects in mice of treatment with interleukin-4 or control on disease activity, cartilage damage and bone destruction. Mice were treated intraperitoneally for 7 days with either vehicle (control) or 1 μg/day interleukin-4 (IL-4). CIA, collagen-induced arthritis. *P < 0.05, versus control, by Mann-Whitney U test.
PMCID: PMC17779  PMID: 11056663
bone destruction; cartilage oligomeric matrix protein levels; collagen-induced arthritis; interleukin-4; prednisolone
12.  A Four-Step Model for the IL-6 Amplifier, a Regulator of Chronic Inflammations in Tissue-Specific MHC Class II-Associated Autoimmune Diseases 
It is commonly thought that autoimmune diseases are caused by the breakdown of self-tolerance, which suggests the recognition of specific antigens by autoreactive CD4+ T cells contribute to the specificity of autoimmune diseases (Marrack et al., 2001; Mathis and Benoist, 2004). In several cases, however, even for diseases associated with class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) alleles, the causative tissue-specific antigens recognized by memory/activated CD4+ T cells have not been established (Mocci et al., 2000; Skapenko et al., 2005). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and arthritis in F759 knock-in mice (F759 mice) are such examples (Atsumi et al., 2002; Brennan et al., 2002; Falgarone et al., 2009). These include associations with class II MHC and CD4 molecules; increased numbers of memory/activated CD4+ T cells; and improved outcomes in response to suppressions and/or deficiencies in class II MHC molecules, CD4+ T cells, and the T cell survival cytokine IL-7. Regarding the development of arthritis in F759 mice, it is not only the immune system, but also non-immune tissue that are involved, indicating that the importance of their interactions (Sawa et al., 2006, 2009; Ogura et al., 2008; Hirano, 2010; Murakami et al., 2011). Furthermore, we have shown that local events such as microbleeding together with an accumulation of activated CD4+ T cells in a manner independent of tissue antigen-recognitions induces arthritis in the joints of F759 mice (Murakami et al., 2011). For example, local microbleeding-mediated CCL20 expression induce such an accumulation, causing arthritis development via chronic activation of an IL-17A-dependent IL-6 signaling amplification loop in type 1 collagen+ cells that is triggered by CD4+ T cell-derived cytokine(s) such as IL-17A, which leads to the synergistic activation of STAT3 and NFκB in non-hematopoietic cells in the joint (Murakami et al., 2011). We named this loop the IL-6-mediated inflammation amplifier, or IL-6 amplifier for short (Ogura et al., 2008; Hirano, 2010; Murakami et al., 2011). Thus, certain class II MHC-associated, tissue-specific autoimmune diseases, including some RA subtypes, may be induced by local events that cause an antigen-independent accumulation of effector CD4+ T cells followed by the induction of the IL-6 amplifier in the affected tissue. In other words, in certain cases, the target tissue itself may determine the specificity of the autoimmune disease via activation of the IL-6 amplifier. To explain this hypothesis, we have proposed a four-step model for MHC class II-associated autoimmune diseases (Murakami et al., 2011): (1) T cell activation regardless of antigen specificity; (2) local events inducing a tissue-specific accumulation of activated T cells; (3) transient activation of the IL-6 amplifier; and (4) enhanced sensitivity to cytokines in the target tissue. The interaction of these events results in chronic activation of the IL-6 amplifier and subsequent manifestation of autoimmune diseases. Thus, the IL-6 amplifier, which is chronically activated by these four events, is a critical regulator of chronic inflammations in tissue-specific MHC class II-associated autoimmune diseases.
doi:10.3389/fimmu.2011.00022
PMCID: PMC3341963  PMID: 22566812
MHC class II association; autoimmune diseases; inflammation; IL-6-mediated inflammation amplifier; cytokines; chemokines; Th17 cells
13.  The rationale for the current boom in anti-TNFα treatment. Is there an effective means to define therapeutic targets for drugs that provide all the benefits of anti-TNFα and minimise hazards? 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1999;58(Suppl 1):I27-I31.
Progress in understanding mechanisms of disease are necessary to usher in major changes in treatment. A new era in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and related chronic autoimmune/inflammatory diseases is now beginning, with a variety of anti-TNFα treatments licensed for use in both RA and Crohn's disease. The rationale for this new treatment lies in an understanding that cytokines are critical, rate limiting molecules lying at the heart of the chronic autoimmune/inflammatory disease process. This understanding was developed from the critical evaluation of a hypothesis that was proposed linking cytokines, antigen presentation and autoimmunity in 1983. Detailed analysis focusing on the major site of the disease, the rheumatoid synovium was essential to developing indications that blockade of TNFα might be efficacious. This clue was validated using anti-TNFα treatment of an animal model of RA, murine collagen induced arthritis, and by immunohistochemical demonstration of upregulated TNF and TNF-R expression in the synovium. With this three pronged rationale, the authors were able to convince Centocor, Inc, which had developed a chimaeric anti-TNFα antibody for use in sepsis, to work with them to test the concept that TNFα blockade would be beneficial in RA. With the success of that first trial, other companies have subsequently tested their anti-TNF strategies successfully. Current interests extend to understanding the processes that regulate TNF production in the rheumatoid joint. Progress in this area is discussed, using adenoviruses to infect normal macrophages and rheumatoid synovium.


PMCID: PMC1766587  PMID: 10577970
14.  Ectopic Lymphoid Structures Support Ongoing Production of Class-Switched Autoantibodies in Rheumatoid Synovium 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1.
Background
Follicular structures resembling germinal centres (GCs) that are characterized by follicular dendritic cell (FDC) networks have long been recognized in chronically inflamed tissues in autoimmune diseases, including the synovium of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, it is debated whether these ectopic structures promote autoimmunity and chronic inflammation driving the production of pathogenic autoantibodies. Anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies (ACPA) are highly specific markers of RA, predict a poor prognosis, and have been suggested to be pathogenic. Therefore, the main study objectives were to determine whether ectopic lymphoid structures in RA synovium: (i) express activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), the enzyme required for somatic hypermutation and class-switch recombination (CSR) of Ig genes; (ii) support ongoing CSR and ACPA production; and (iii) remain functional in a RA/severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) chimera model devoid of new immune cell influx into the synovium.
Methods and Findings
Using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and quantitative Taqman real-time PCR (QT-PCR) in synovial tissue from 55 patients with RA, we demonstrated that FDC+ structures invariably expressed AID with a distribution resembling secondary lymphoid organs. Further, AID+/CD21+ follicular structures were surrounded by ACPA+/CD138+ plasma cells, as demonstrated by immune reactivity to citrullinated fibrinogen. Moreover, we identified a novel subset of synovial AID+/CD20+ B cells outside GCs resembling interfollicular large B cells. In order to gain direct functional evidence that AID+ structures support CSR and in situ manufacturing of class-switched ACPA, 34 SCID mice were transplanted with RA synovium and humanely killed at 4 wk for harvesting of transplants and sera. Persistent expression of AID and Iγ-Cμ circular transcripts (identifying ongoing IgM-IgG class-switching) was observed in synovial grafts expressing FDCs/CD21L. Furthermore, synovial mRNA levels of AID were closely associated with circulating human IgG ACPA in mouse sera. Finally, the survival and proliferation of functional B cell niches was associated with persistent overexpression of genes regulating ectopic lymphoneogenesis.
Conclusions
Our demonstration that FDC+ follicular units invariably express AID and are surrounded by ACPA-producing plasma cells provides strong evidence that ectopic lymphoid structures in the RA synovium are functional and support autoantibody production. This concept is further confirmed by evidence of sustained AID expression, B cell proliferation, ongoing CSR, and production of human IgG ACPA from GC+ synovial tissue transplanted into SCID mice, independently of new B cell influx from the systemic circulation. These data identify AID as a potential therapeutic target in RA and suggest that survival of functional synovial B cell niches may profoundly influence chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, and response to B cell–depleting therapies.
Costantino Pitzalis and colleagues show that lymphoid structures in synovial tissue of patients with rheumatoid arthritis support production of anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies, which continues following transplantation into SCID mice.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More than 1 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis, an “autoimmune” condition that affects the joints. Normally, the immune system provides protection against infection by responding to foreign antigens (molecules that are unique to invading organisms) while ignoring self-antigens present in the body's own tissues. In autoimmune diseases, this ability to discriminate between self and non-self fails for unknown reasons and the immune system begins to attack human tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joints (the synovium) is attacked, it becomes inflamed and thickened, and chemicals are released that damage all the tissues in the joint. Eventually, the joint may become so scarred that movement is no longer possible. Rheumatoid arthritis usually starts in the small joints in the hands and feet, but larger joints and other tissues (including the heart and blood vessels) can be affected. Its symptoms, which tend to fluctuate, include early morning joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, and feeling generally unwell. Although the disease is not always easy to diagnose, the immune systems of many people with rheumatoid arthritis make “anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies” (ACPA). These “autoantibodies” (which some experts believe can contribute to the joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis) recognize self-proteins that contain the unusual amino acid citrulline, and their detection on blood tests can help make the diagnosis. Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the recently developed biologic drugs, often used together with the more traditional disease-modifying therapies, are able to halt its progression by specifically blocking the chemicals that cause joint damage. Painkillers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce its symptoms, and badly damaged joints can sometimes be surgically replaced.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before scientists can develop a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, they need to know how and why autoantibodies are made that attack the joints in this common and disabling disease. B cells, the immune system cells that make antibodies, mature in structures known as “germinal centers” in the spleen and lymph nodes. In the germinal centers, immature B cells are exposed to antigens and undergo two genetic processes called “somatic hypermutation” and “class-switch recombination” that ensure that each B cell makes an antibody that sticks as tightly as possible to just one antigen. The B cells then multiply and enter the bloodstream where they help to deal with infections. Interestingly, the inflamed synovium of many patients with rheumatoid arthritis contains structures that resemble germinal centers. Could these ectopic (misplaced) lymphoid structures, which are characterized by networks of immune system cells called follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), promote autoimmunity and long-term inflammation by driving the production of autoantibodies within the joint itself? In this study, the researchers investigate this possibility.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected synovial tissue from 55 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and used two approaches, called immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR, to investigate whether FDC-containing structures in synovium expressed an enzyme called activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), which is needed for both somatic hypermutation and class-switch recombination. All the FDC-containing structures that the researchers found in their samples expressed AID. Furthermore, these AID-containing structures were surrounded by mature B cells making ACPAs. To test whether these B cells were derived from AID-expressing cells resident in the synovium rather than ACPA-expressing immune system cells coming into the synovium from elsewhere in the body, the researchers transplanted synovium from patients with rheumatoid arthritis under the skin of a special sort of mouse that largely lacks its own immune system. Four weeks later, the researchers found that the transplanted human lymphoid tissue was still making AID, that the level of AID expression correlated with the amount of human ACPA in the blood of the mice, and that the B cells in the transplant were proliferating.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the ectopic lymphoid structures present in the synovium of some patients with rheumatoid arthritis are functional and are able to make ACPA. Because ACPA may be responsible for joint damage, the survival of these structures could, therefore, be involved in the development and progression of rheumatoid arthritis. More experiments are needed to confirm this idea, but these findings may explain why drugs that effectively clear B cells from the bloodstream do not always produce a marked clinical improvement in rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, they suggest that AID might provide a new target for the development of drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0060001.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Rene Toes and Tom Huizinga
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on rheumatoid arthritis (in English and Spanish). MedlinePlus provides links to other information on rheumatoid arthritis (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices information service has detailed information on rheumatoid arthritis
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides Fast Facts, an easy to read publication for the public, and a more detailed Handbook on rheumatoid arthritis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an overview on rheumatoid arthritis that includes statistics about this disease and its impact on daily life
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0060001
PMCID: PMC2621263  PMID: 19143467
15.  High mobility group box protein 1 in complex with lipopolysaccharide or IL-1 promotes an increased inflammatory phenotype in synovial fibroblasts 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(4):R136.
Introduction
In addition to its direct proinflammatory activity, extracellular high mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) can strongly enhance the cytokine response evoked by other proinflammatory molecules, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), CpG-DNA and IL-1β, through the formation of complexes. Extracellular HMGB1 is abundant in arthritic joint tissue where it is suggested to promote inflammation as intra-articular injections of HMGB1 induce synovitis in mice and HMGB1 neutralizing therapy suppresses development of experimental arthritis. The aim of this study was to determine whether HMGB1 in complex with LPS, interleukin (IL)-1α or IL-1β has enhancing effects on the production of proinflammatory mediators by rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) and osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASF). Furthermore, we examined the toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 and IL-1RI requirement for the cytokine-enhancing effects of the investigated HMGB1-ligand complexes.
Methods
Synovial fibroblasts obtained from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) patients were stimulated with HMGB1 alone or in complex with LPS, IL-1α or IL-1β. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) production was determined by enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT) assessment. Levels of IL-10, IL-1-β, IL-6 and IL-8 were measured using Cytokine Bead Array and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 3 production was determined by ELISA.
Results
Stimulation with HMGB1 in complex with LPS, IL-1α or IL-1β enhanced production of TNF, IL-6 and IL-8. HMGB1 in complex with IL-1β increased MMP production from both RASF and OASF. The cytokine production was inhibited by specific receptor blockade using detoxified LPS or IL-1 receptor antagonist, indicating that the synergistic effects were mediated through the partner ligand-reciprocal receptors TLR4 and IL-1RI, respectively.
Conclusions
HMGB1 in complex with LPS, IL-1α or IL-1β boosted proinflammatory cytokine- and MMP production in synovial fibroblasts from RA and OA patients. A mechanism for the pathogenic role of HMGB1 in arthritis could thus be through enhancement of inflammatory and destructive mechanisms induced by other proinflammatory mediators present in the arthritic joint.
doi:10.1186/ar3450
PMCID: PMC3239379  PMID: 21871094
16.  The roles of IFN-γ versus IL-17 in Pathogenic Effects of Human Th17 Cells on Synovial Fibroblasts 
Modern rheumatology / the Japan Rheumatism Association  2013;23(6):10.1007/s10165-012-0811-x.
Introduction
Th17 cells, while indispensable in host defense, may play pathogenic roles in many autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the mechanisms by which human Th17 cells drive autoimmunity have not been fully defined. We assessed the potential of the human Th17 CD4 T cell subset to induce expression of cell-cell interaction molecules and inflammatory mediators by fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS), and the roles of.IFN-γ and IL-17 in these interactions.
Methods
Th1 or Th17 cells were induced from healthy adult donor CD4 T cells and were co-cultured with FLS for 48 hours with/without neutralization of IFN-γ, IL-17A, or both. Alternatively, FLS were treated only with IFN-γ or IL-17 for 48 hours. FLS expression of CD40, CD54, and MHC-II, as well as IL-6 and IL-8 secretion were assessed by surface staining followed by flow cytometry and ELISA respectively.
Results
Both Th1 and Th17 cells secreted IL-17 as well as IFN-γ, although IFN-γ production was much greater from Th1 cells. FLS expression of CD40, CD54, and MHC-II significantly increased upon co-culture with either Th1 or Th17 cells, and was largely due to the IFN-γ secreted by the T cells. Both T cell subsets induced IL-6 and IL-8 secretion by RA FLS. Neutralization of IL-17A did not reduce FLS expression of CD40, MHC-II or CD54, but did inhibit IL-6 and IL-8 secretion. Although IFN-γ was a weak inducer of IL-6 secretion and significantly inhibited IL-8 secretion from FLS when used as a single stimulus, neutralization of IFN-γ inhibited induction of FLS secretion of both cytokines in Th17/FLS co-cultures. The effects of Th17 cells on FLS were not entirely accounted for by IL-17 and IFN-γ, suggesting roles for additional cytokines secreted by these cells.
Conclusion
FLS cell-cell interaction molecules and soluble inflammatory mediators are differentially regulated by IFN-γ and IL-17, cytokines that are secreted by both human Th1 and Th17 cells. The effects of IFN-γ may depend in part on the particular milieu of other co-existing cytokines and cell-cell interaction signals. The potential benefit of therapeutic neutralization of either IL-17 or IFN-γ could depend on the relative proportion of these cytokines in the synovial compartment of an RA patient. Suppression of the differentiation of Th17 cells may hold more therapeutic potential than neutralization of a single cytokine produced by CD4 T cells.
doi:10.1007/s10165-012-0811-x
PMCID: PMC3710715  PMID: 23306426
Rheumatoid arthritis; T lymphocytes; Fibroblast-like synoviocytes; Pathogenicity; IFN-γ; IL-17; cell-cell interaction molecules; IL-6; IL-8; IL-4
17.  The role of X-chromosome inactivation in female predisposition to autoimmunity 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(5):399-406.
We propose that the phenomenon of X-chromosome inactivation in females may constitute a risk factor for loss of T-cell tolerance; specifically that skewed X-chromosome inactivation in the thymus may lead to inadequate thymic deletion. Using a DNA methylation assay, we have examined the X-chromosome inactivation patterns in peripheral blood from normal females (n = 30), female patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases (n = 167). No differences between patients and controls were observed. However, locally skewed X-chromsome inactivation may exist in the thymus, and therefore the underlying hypothesis remains to be disproved.
Introduction:
A reduction in the sex ratio (male : female) is characteristic of most autoimmune disorders. The increased prevalence in females ranges from a modest 2:1 for multiple sclerosis [1], to approximately 10:1 for systemic lupus erythematosus [2]. This tendency toward autoimmunity in females is often ascribed to hormonal differences, because in a number of experimental disease models estrogens exacerbated disease, and androgens can inhibit disease activity [3,4]. However, human studies have failed to demonstrate a clear-cut influence of hormonal environment on disease susceptibility to lupus or other autoimmune disorders. In addition, many childhood forms of autoimmunity, such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, exhibit female predominance [5]. Interestingly, juvenile (type 1) diabetes is an exception to this general trend, with a sex ratio close to 1 in most studies [6]. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider alternative explanations for the increased prevalence of autoimmune diseases in human females.
A unifying feature of autoimmune disorders appears to be the loss of immunologic tolerance to self-antigens, and in many of these diseases there is evidence that T-cell tolerance has been broken. The most profound form of T-cell tolerance involves deletion of potentially self-reactive T cells during thymic selection. Thus, lack of exposure to a self-antigen in the thymus may lead to the presence of autoreactive T cells and may increase the risk of autoimmunity. An elegant example of this has recently been reported [7].
The existence of X-chromosome inactivation in females offers a potential mechanism whereby X-linked self-antigens may escape presentation in the thymus or in other peripheral sites that are involved in tolerance induction. Early in female development, one of the two X chromosomes in each cell undergoes an ordered process of inactivation, with subsequent silencing of most genes on the inactive X chromosome [8]. This phenomenon occurs at a very early embryonic stage [9], and thus all females are mosaic and may occasionally exhibit extreme skewing towards one or the other parental X chromosome. In theory, this may result in a situation in which polymorphic self-antigens on one X chromosome may fail to be expressed at sufficiently high levels in a tolerizing compartment, such as the thymus, and yet may be expressed at a considerable frequency in the peripheral soma. Thus, females may be predisposed to a situation in which they can occasionally express X-linked autoantigens in the periphery to which they have been inefficiently tolerized. Stewart [10] has recently speculated that such a mechanism may play a role in the predisposition to systemic lupus.
This hypothesis predicts that females with autoimmunity may be particularly prone to this mechanism of `inadequate tolerization' by virtue of extremely skewed X-chromosome inactivation. We therefore performed a comprehensive analysis of X-chromosome inactivation patterns in populations of females with multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, and in female control individuals. The results do not provide support for a major role for skewed X-chromosome inactivation in female predisposition to autoimmunity; however, neither is the underlying hypothesis disproved by the present data.
Materials and method:
DNA was obtained from female patients from the following sources: 45 persons with juvenile diabetes seen at the Virginia Mason Research Center in Seattle, Washington; 58 multiple sclerosis patients seen at the New York Hospital Multiple Sclerosis Center; 46 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus seen at the Hospital for Special Surgery (New York); 18 patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis seen at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cleveland. In addition, 30 healthy age-matched females were studied as normal controls.
Employing a modification of previously described methods [11], we utilized a fluorescent Hpa II/PCR assay of the androgen receptor (AR) locus to assess X-chromosome inactivation patterns. The AR gene contains a polymorphic CAG repeat, which is flanked by Hpa II sites. These Hpa II sites are methylated on the inactive X chromosome, and are unmethylated on the active X chromosome. By performing PCR amplification across this region after cutting with the methylation-sensitive enzyme Hpa II, the relative amounts of the methylated AR alleles can be quantitatively determined with a high degree of accuracy; variance on repeated assays is approximately 4% [12].
Skewing of X-chromosome inactivation is expressed as percentage deviation from equal (50:50) inactivation of the upper and lower AR alleles. Therefore, the maximal possible deviation is 50%, in which case all of the X chromosomes bearing one of the AR alleles are inactivated.
Results:
We examined X-chromosome inactivation patterns in several different populations. The results are summarized in Fig. 1. A wide range of X-inactivation skewing was observed in all five groups. Approximately 5% (nine out of 197) of individuals exhibited extreme skewing (greater than 40% deviation from a 50:50 distribution). However, there was no difference between the groups, either in the overall mean skewing, or in the fraction of individuals with extreme skewing (>40%).
Although the present study was not initiated in order to examine allelic variation in the AR gene per se, the data provide an opportunity to address this question. Excessively long CAG repeats in the AR are a rare cause of spinal-bulbar muscular atrophy [13], and AR repeat length appears to have an influence on the biology of certain tumors [14,15]. In this context, it has been shown that transcription of AR correlates inversely with repeat length [16]. We therefore compared AR repeat length in control individuals and patients with autoimmunity. No differences were observed for mean repeat length, or for maximum and minimum repeat length, among the five groups.
Discussion:
The reason for the female predominance in most autoimmune diseases remains obscure. The present study was initiated in order to address the hypothesis that a nonhormonal mechanism related to X inactivation might be involved. The hypothesis rests on the idea that skewing of X inactivation might lead to a deficiency of tolerance induction in the thymus, particularly with respect to polymorphic X-linked autoantigens. The hypothesis predicts that skewed X inactivation would be more prevalent in females with autoimmune diseases than in female control individuals. This was not observed.
Nevertheless, these negative data do not rule out a role for X inactivation in female predisposition to loss of tolerance. A general model for how this mechanism might operate is shown in Fig. 2. Thymocytes undergo selection in the thymic parenchyma and, in the case of negative selection, the selecting elements appear to be derived from the bone marrow and consist mainly of thymic dendritic cells. If the thymic dendritic cell population exhibits random X inactivation, it is highly likely that differentiating thymocytes will contact dendritic cells that express self-antigens on both X chromosomes. This situation is outlined schematically on the left side of Fig. 2. However, if there is extremely skewed X inactivation in the thymic dendritic cell population, a particular thymocyte might not come into contact with dendritic cells that express one of the two X chormosomes. This would lead to a situation where T cells may undergo thymic maturation without having been negatively selected for antigens that are expressed on the predominantly inactive X chromosome. This situation is shown on the right side of Fig. 2.
In order for this mechanism to be physiologically relevant, some assumptions must be made. First, defective tolerance from skewed X inactivation should only be directed at X-linked antigens that are polymorphic, and for which the individual is heterozygous. Thus, this mechanism would not be expected to lead to lack of tolerance commonly, unless there are at least several highly polymorphic X-linked autoantigens in the population that are involved in thymic deletion events. Second, if this actually leads to autoimmunity, it also predicts that the initial break in tolerance that leads to disease should involve an X-linked autoantigen that is expressed in a peripheral nontolerizing site or circumstance.
A recent report [7] has elegantly demonstrated the importance of thymic deletion events in predisposition to autoimmune disease. The proteolipid protein (PLP) autoantigen is expressed in alternatively spliced forms, which exhibit tissue specific expression. A nonspliced variant is expressed in peripheral neural tissue. However, in the thymus a splice variant results in the lack of thymic expression of an immunodominant peptide. This results in loss of tolerace of T cells to this peptide, presumably on the basis of lack of thymic deletion of thymocytes that are reactive with this antigen. Interestingly, PLP is encoded on the X chromsome. However, there is no evidence that genetic polymorphisms control the level splicing of PLP within the thymus. Nevertheless, these data illustrate the potential importance of deficiencies in thymic deletion for autoimmune T-cell reactivity.
The present results suggest that if skewed X inactivation is relevant to thymic tolerance induction, then the effect does not depend on global skewing of X-chromosome inactivation, at least in the hematopoietic compartment. In this study we examined X-inactivation patterns in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and the results should reflect the state of X inactivation in all mesenchymal tissues, including dendritic cells. X inactivation occurs at a very early time point in development, and thus the results in one tissue should reflect the general situation in the rest of the body. However, there may be exceptions to this. We have occasionally observed differences in X-inactivation patterns between buccal mucosa (an ectodermally derived tissue) and peripheral blood in the same individiual (unpublished observations). This could be a chance event, or it may result from selection for certain X-linked alleles during embryonic development, as has been described in carriers of X-linked immunodeficiencies [17].
Another consideration is that certain tissue microenvironments may be derived from very small numbers of founder cells, and thus may exhibit skewed utilization of one or the other X chromosome, even if the tissue as a whole is not skewed. This situation could vary over time. Thus, there may be time points at which certain thymic microenvironments are populated by dendritic cells that, for stochastic reasons, all utilize the same X chromosome. This would create a `window of opportunity' in which a given thymocyte, in a given selecting location, could escape negative selection by antigens on the inactive X chromosome. The likelihood of this happening would obviously depend on the number of dendritic cells that are usually contacted by a thymocyte during thymic selection. There is limited information on this point, although Stewart [10] has theorized that this number may be as low as 15. If this is the case, then escape from thymic deletion may still occur in females who are heterozygous for a relevant X-linked antigen, even if the hematopoietic cells in general do not exhibit extreme skewing.
In conclusion, we suggest that X-chromosome inactivation needs to be considered as a potential factor in the predominance of females in most autoimmune diseases. Our inability to show an increase in X-chromosome skewing in females with autoimmunity does not eliminate this as an etiologic contributor to loss of immunologic tolerance. Future experiments must be directed at a detailed analysis of tissue patterns of X inactivation, as well as at a search for potential X-linked autoantigens.
PMCID: PMC17816  PMID: 11056674
autoimmunity; gender; immune tolerance; X chromosome
18.  Potential Role of Decoy B7-H4 in the Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Mouse Model Informed by Clinical Data 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000166.
Finding an association between soluble B7-H4 and rheumatoid arthritis severity, Lieping Chen and colleagues use a mouse model to show that the soluble form blocks the inhibitory function of cell-surface B7-H4.
Background
A pathogenic hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is persistent inflammatory responses in target tissues and organs. Immune responses mediated by T cells and autoantibodies are known to play pivotal roles. A possible interpretation for this observation is a loss of negative regulation of autoimmune responses. Here we sought to investigate whether B7-H4, a cell surface inhibitory molecule of the B7-CD28 signaling pathway, may play a role in the pathogenesis of RA.
Methods and Findings
In a cross-sectional study of a clinical convenience sample using monoclonal antibodies against human B7-H4 molecules, we detected high levels of the soluble form of B7-H4 (sH4) in the sera of 65% of patients with RA (n = 68) versus only 13% of healthy donors (n = 24). Elevated sH4 was associated with an increased disease severity score (DAS28) in a cross-sectional analysis. In a mouse model of RA, transgenic expression of sH4 or genetic deletion of B7-H4 accelerated the progression of collagen-induced arthritis, accompanied by enhanced T and B cell–mediated autoimmune responses as well as increased activity of neutrophils. Expression in vivo of an agonist, a B7-H4-immunoglobulin Fc fusion protein, profoundly suppressed disease progression in the mouse model.
Conclusions
Our findings in mice indicate that sH4 acts as a decoy molecule to block the inhibitory functions of cell-surface B7-H4, leading to exacerbation of collagen-induced arthritis. If the preliminary correlation between sH4 levels and disease activity in patients with RA can be confirmed to reflect a similar mechanism, these findings suggest a novel target for treatment approaches.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease caused by abnormal immune responses. In RA, the body's own immune system mainly attacks the joints, causing inflammation in their lining, but can affect other tissues and organs in the body. About 1% of the population in developed countries suffer from RA, and it can result in long-term joint damage, causing significant illness and disability. Sufferers have chronic pain, loss of function of the joint, and loss of mobility. The cause of RA is unknown and there is no known cure. However, neutrophils (an immune cell important for inflammation) are thought to contribute to the initiation of RA. Understanding the primary mechanisms behind the development of RA, and where the body's immune system goes wrong, is fundamental not only to find new treatments for the disease but also to aid diagnosis to help patients get treatment to help control their often debilitating symptoms.
Why Was the Study Done?
Regulation of the immune system is necessary to prevent overactivity. Interruptions to the normal signals that moderate the immune response can lead to destruction of normal tissues. Previous studies have shown that the B7 family of proteins, which interact with CD28 signaling proteins on the surface of immune cells, are important regulators of the immune response. B7 proteins have also been found to exist in soluble forms that have been implicated in the development of rheumatoid diseases, but their exact role is not well understood. In the current study, researchers examined a member of the B7 family, B7-H4, which normally acts as an inhibitor of the immune response, to find out whether this signaling molecule affects the immune response and has a role in the development of RA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected blood from 68 patients with RA and 24 healthy volunteers, and measured levels of soluble B7-H4, also known as sH4. They found sH4 in blood from 65% of patients with RA, compared with only 13% of healthy people. The levels of sH4 were significantly higher in RA patients (96.1 ng/ml) compared to healthy people (<5 ng/ml). Moreover, the highest levels of sH4 were found in patients with the most severe forms of RA, as measured by a standard index score that includes general health, the number of swollen joints, and the amount of inflammation. The researchers then used a mouse model of RA to explore how sH4 might contribute to RA. First, they injected mice with plasmids (circular pieces of DNA that can be used to transfer genes into organisms) carrying the gene for sH4 and looked at how overexpression of sH4 affected the development of arthritis. They also looked at how deleting the B7-H4 gene in mice affected symptoms. Both overexpression of sH4 and deletion of B7-H4 caused inflammation in the mice; symptoms appeared earlier and were more severe. Furthermore, the effects of sH4 were shown to be dependent on neutrophils. Finally, the researchers successfully prevented the development of disease in mice by using a protein to mimic the normal signaling by B7-H4, which inhibits the immune response.
What Do these Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the signaling molecule B7-H4 may be involved in the development of RA. B7-H4 normally acts as an inhibitor of the immune response to suppress inflammation, but when its action is blocked the immune response is no longer suppressed, and an inappropriate and increased immune reaction occurs. sH4 is thought to act as a decoy that blocks binding of B7-H4 to its receptor, thereby preventing an inhibitory signal to the immune system. Overexpression of sH4 worsens the symptoms in the mouse model of RA. Intriguingly, high levels of sH4 were also present in RA patients and were associated with increased severity of disease. This study does not establish sH4 as a cause of RA but implicates sH4 as a cause in the progression of increased inflammation in this disease. Immune system signaling molecules have potential as novel targets for treatment of RA and other autoimmune disorders. However, further studies are needed to test whether sH4 has a direct role in the development of RA in humans.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000166.
MedlinePlus has a topic page on RA providing extensive information on symptoms and treatment for RA and access to related clinical trials and medical literature
The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (UK) is a patient-led charity to provide information, education, and support for people with RA
The Arthritis Foundation (US) is a national not-for-profit organization that supports public health education and research funding, and provides informational resources for people with arthritis http://www.arthritis.org/
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000166
PMCID: PMC2760136  PMID: 19841745
19.  A Candidate Gene Approach Identifies the TRAF1/C5 Region as a Risk Factor for Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(9):e278.
Background
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder affecting ∼1% of the population. The disease results from the interplay between an individual's genetic background and unknown environmental triggers. Although human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) account for ∼30% of the heritable risk, the identities of non-HLA genes explaining the remainder of the genetic component are largely unknown. Based on functional data in mice, we hypothesized that the immune-related genes complement component 5 (C5) and/or TNF receptor-associated factor 1 (TRAF1), located on Chromosome 9q33–34, would represent relevant candidate genes for RA. We therefore aimed to investigate whether this locus would play a role in RA.
Methods and Findings
We performed a multitiered case-control study using 40 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the TRAF1 and C5 (TRAF1/C5) region in a set of 290 RA patients and 254 unaffected participants (controls) of Dutch origin. Stepwise replication of significant SNPs was performed in three independent sample sets from the Netherlands (ncases/controls = 454/270), Sweden (ncases/controls = 1,500/1,000) and US (ncases/controls = 475/475). We observed a significant association (p < 0.05) of SNPs located in a haplotype block that encompasses a 65 kb region including the 3′ end of C5 as well as TRAF1. A sliding window analysis revealed an association peak at an intergenic region located ∼10 kb from both C5 and TRAF1. This peak, defined by SNP14/rs10818488, was confirmed in a total of 2,719 RA patients and 1,999 controls (odds ratiocommon = 1.28, 95% confidence interval 1.17–1.39, pcombined = 1.40 × 10−8) with a population-attributable risk of 6.1%. The A (minor susceptibility) allele of this SNP also significantly correlates with increased disease progression as determined by radiographic damage over time in RA patients (p = 0.008).
Conclusions
Using a candidate-gene approach we have identified a novel genetic risk factor for RA. Our findings indicate that a polymorphism in the TRAF1/C5 region increases the susceptibility to and severity of RA, possibly by influencing the structure, function, and/or expression levels of TRAF1 and/or C5.
Using a candidate-gene approach, Rene Toes and colleagues identified a novel genetic risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis in theTRAF1/C5 region.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a very common chronic illness that affects around 1% of people in developed countries. It is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to various tissues within the body; as well as affecting joints and causing an inflammatory arthritis, it can also affect many other organs of the body. Severe rheumatoid arthritis can be life-threatening, but even mild forms of the disease cause substantial illness and disability. Current treatments aim to give symptomatic relief with the use of simple analgesics, or anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, most patients are also treated with what are known as disease-modifying agents, which aim to prevent joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is known to have a genetic component. For example, an association has been shown with the part of the genome that contains the human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), which are involved in the immune response. Information on other genes involved would be helpful both for understanding the underlying cause of the disease and possibly for the discovery of new treatments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous work in mice that have a disease similar to human rheumatoid arthritis has identified a number of possible candidate genes. One of these genes, complement component 5 (C5) is involved in the complement system—a primitive system within the body that is involved in the defense against foreign molecules. In humans the gene for C5 is located on Chromosome 9 close to another gene involved in the inflammatory response, TNF receptor-associated factor 1 (TRAF1). A preliminary study in humans of this region had shown some evidence, albeit weak, to suggest that this region might be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The authors set out to look in more detail, and in a larger group of individuals, to see if they could prove this association.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took 40 genetic markers, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), from across the region that included the C5 and TRAF1 genes. SNPs have each been assigned a unique reference number that specifies a point in the human genome, and each is present in alternate forms so can be differentiated. They compared which of the alternate forms were present in 290 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 254 unaffected participants of Dutch origin. They then repeated the study in three other groups of patients and controls of Dutch, Swedish, and US origin. They found a consistent association with rheumatoid arthritis of one region of 65 kilobases (a small distance in genetic terms) that included one end of the C5 gene as well as the TRAF1 gene. They could refine the area of interest to a piece marked by one particular SNP that lay between the genes. They went on to show that the genetic region in which these genes are located may be involved in the binding of a protein that modifies the transcription of genes, thus providing a possible explanation for the association. Furthermore, they showed that one of the alternate versions of the marker in this region was associated with more aggressive disease.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding of a genetic association is the first step in identifying a genetic component of a disease. The strength of this study is that a novel genetic susceptibility factor for RA has been identified and that the overall result is consistent in four different populations as well as being associated with disease severity. Further work will need to be done to confirm the association in other populations and then to identify the precise genetic change involved. Hopefully this work will lead to new avenues of investigation for therapy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040278.
• Medline Plus, the health information site for patients from the US National Library of Medicine, has a page of resources on rheumatoid arthritis
• The UK's National Health Service online information site has information on rheumatoid arthritis
• The Arthritis Research Campaign, a UK charity that funds research on all types of arthritis, has a booklet with information for patients on rheumatoid arthritis
• Reumafonds, a Dutch arthritis foundation, gives information on rheumatoid arthritis (in Dutch)
• Autocure is an initiative whose objective is to transform knowledge obtained from molecular research into a cure for an increasing number of patients suffering from inflammatory rheumatic diseases
• The European league against Rheumatism, an organisation which represents the patient, health professionals, and scientific societies of rheumatology of all European nations
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040278
PMCID: PMC1976626  PMID: 17880261
20.  Suppression of Autoimmune Arthritis by Small Molecule Inhibitors of the JAK/STAT Pathway 
Pharmaceuticals  2010;3(5):1446-1455.
A skewed ratio of pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory cytokines, elevated growth factor synthesis and T- and B-lymphocyte activation are 3 hallmarks of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pathology. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-7, IL-17, IL-12/IL-23 and growth factors, granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor, IL-3, and erythropoietin activate the Janus Kinase/Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (JAK/STAT) pathway. Evidence showed that STAT protein phosphorylation (p-STAT) by activated JAKs is permissive for p-STAT to act as transcription factors by binding to STAT-responsive gene promoter sequences. This event is critical for perpetuating RA, in part, by up-regulating pro-inflammatory cytokine gene transcription. Activation of JAK/STAT by cytokines and growth factors can induce ‘cross-talk’ with other signaling pathways by which Stress-Activated Protein/Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (SAP/MAPK) and Phosphatidylinositide-3-Kinase (PI3K)-mediated signaling are also activated. JAK-specific small molecule inhibitors (SMIs) were developed to test whether JAK/STAT pathway blockade would regulate autoimmune-mediated inflammation. JAK-specific SMI blockade inhibited p-STAT induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines in vitro. Systemically administered JAK-specific SMI blockade also ameliorated biomarkers of inflammation in well-validated arthritis animal models. A few JAK-specific SMIs have made their way into RA clinical trials. In fact, the JAK3-specific SMI, CP-690,500 is the first JAK/STAT SMI to be assessed for clinical efficacy in a Phase III RA trial.
doi:10.3390/ph3051446
PMCID: PMC4033991
arthritis; autoimmune; Janus kinase; signal transducers and activators of transcription; small molecule inhibitor
21.  Princess Takamatsu Symposium on DNA Repair and Human Cancers 
Cancer research  2010;70(11):10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-0320.
The 40th International Symposium of the Princess Takamatsu Cancer Research Fund, entitled “DNA Repair and Human Cancers” was held on November 10–12, 2009 at Hotel Grand Palace, Tokyo, Japan. The meeting focused on the role of DNA repair in preventing mutations by endogenous and exogenous DNA damage and increasing the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents by interfering with DNA repair. The fourteen presentations by the speakers from U.S.A., four from U.K., one each from Italy, The Netherlands and France, and thirteen from Japan, covered most aspects of DNA repair spanning DNA damage, molecular structures of repair enzymes, and clinical studies on inhibition of DNA repair processes. Extensive time was reserved for discussions with the active participation of the 150 invited Japanese scientists. The choice of a symposium on DNA repair in human cancers resulted in part from the excellent basic and clinical studies that have been carried out for many years in Japan, and the general lack of recognition vs. the importance of DNA repair in understanding carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-0320
PMCID: PMC3846349  PMID: 20460534
22.  Interleukin 6 in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases: a personal memoir 
In this review, the author discusses the research that led to the identification and characterization of interleukin 6 (IL-6), including his own experience isolating IL-6, and the roles this cytokine has on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The cDNAs encoding B-cell stimulatory factor 2 (BSF-2), interferon (IFN)-β2 and a 26-kDa protein were independently cloned in 1986, which in turn led to the identification of each. To resolve the confusing nomenclature, these identical molecules were named IL-6. Characterization of IL-6 revealed a multifunctional cytokine that is involved in not only immune responses but also hematopoiesis, inflammation, and bone metabolism. Moreover, IL-6 makes significant contributions to such autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
IL-6 activates both the STAT3 and SHP2/Gab/MAPK signaling pathways via the gp130 signal transducer. F759 mice, which contain a single amino-acid substitution in gp130 (Y759F) and show enhanced STAT3 activation, spontaneously develop a RA-like arthritis as they age. F759 arthritis is dependent on CD4+ T cells, IL-6, and IL-17A, and is enhanced by the pX gene product from human T cell leukemia virus 1 (HTLV-1). Arthritis development in these mice requires that the F759 mutation is present in nonhematopoietic cells, but not in immune cells, highlighting the important role of the interaction between nonimmune tissues and the immune system in this disease. Furthermore, this interaction is mediated by the IL-6 amplifier through STAT3 and NF-κB. Ultimately, this model may represent a general etiologic process underlying other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. More importantly, the understanding of IL-6 has paved the way for new therapeutic approaches for RA and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.2183/pjab.86.717
PMCID: PMC3066534  PMID: 20689230
cytokine; Interleukin 6; immune response; inflammation; autoimmune disease; rheumatoid arthritis
23.  JAKpot! New small molecules in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases 
Experimental dermatology  2014;23(1):10.1111/exd.12265.
Cytokines are key mediators of the development and homeostasis of hematopoietic cells, critical for host defense, but also for the development of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Blocking cytokines activity by interfering with the ligand-receptor association has been successfully employed to treat several immune disorders. A subgroup of cytokines signals through receptors requiring the association with a family of cytoplasmic protein tyrosine kinases known as Janus kinases (Jaks). Jaks have recently gained significant attention as therapeutic targets in inflammation and autoimmunity and several Jak inhibitory small molecules have been developed. The first two Jak inhibitors, tofacitinib and ruxolitinib, have been approved for the treatment of RA and primary myelofibrosis, respectively. Efficacy and safety data suggest that some of these oral Jak inhibitors as well as their topical formulations may soon enter the daily clinical practice for treating patients with psoriasis, lupus erythematosus or other inflammatory skin diseases. While biologics typically target one single cytokine, these new immunomodulators can inhibit signals from multiple cytokines intracellularly and therefore could be useful when other therapies are ineffective. Thus, Jak inhibitors may replace some traditional immunosuppressive agents and help patients not responding to previous therapies.
doi:10.1111/exd.12265
PMCID: PMC3877164  PMID: 24131352
24.  STAT3 Activates miR-155 in Th17 Cells and Acts in Concert to Promote Experimental Autoimmune Uveitis 
Purpose.
MicroRNA-155 (miR-155) and STAT3 are implicated in uveitis and pathogenic mechanisms of CNS autoimmune diseases. In our study, we used miR-155−/− mice and mice with targeted STAT3 deletion in T cells (CD4-STAT3KO) to investigate roles of miR-155 and STAT3 in the development of experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU), a mouse model of human uveitis.
Methods.
We induced EAU in WT, miR-155−/−, or CD4-STAT3KO mice by immunization with interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein/complete Freund's adjuvant (IRBP/CFA) or adoptive transfer of T cells. EAU was assessed by funduscopy and histology. RNA expression was analyzed by quantitative PCR (qPCR), while cytokine production was assessed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS).
Results.
We used a combination of genomic and genetic tools to provide the first evidence that STAT3 binds directly to the miR-155 locus and that STAT3 is required for miR-155 expression. Furthermore, STAT3-dependent increase in miR-155 expression in vivo correlated temporally with onset of EAU, and miR-155−/− or CD4-STAT3KO mice did not suffer EAU. CD4+ lymph node cells from IRBP-immunized WT mice transferred EAU to naïve wild-type (WT) and miR-155−/− mice, while miR-155−/− IRBP-specific T cells did not.
Conclusions.
Although miR-155 and STAT3 have been implicated in the etiology of multiple sclerosis (MS), uveitis, or rheumatoid arthritis, their exact roles in these diseases are unclear. We show here for the first time to our knowledge that STAT3 regulates miR-155 expression in Th17 cells. We show further that STAT3 and miR-155 form an axis that promotes the expansion of pathogenic Th17 cells that mediate uveitis. Thus, STAT3 and miR-155 may be therapeutic targets for treating uveitis and other Th17-mediated inflammatory disorders.
We show for the first time, to our knowledge, that STAT3 regulates miR-155 expression by Th17 cells and a STAT3/miR-155 axis mediates uveitis by promoting Th17 expansion. Data suggest that therapeutic strategies that combine miR-155 inhibition with blockade of STAT3 signaling may ameliorate Th17-mediated autoimmune disease.
doi:10.1167/iovs.13-11937
PMCID: PMC3680004  PMID: 23674757
EAU; STAT3; miR-155; uveitis; Th17 cells
25.  The contrasting roles of IL-2 and IL-15 in the life and death of lymphocytes: implications for the immunotherapy of rheumatological diseases 
Arthritis Research  2002;4(Suppl 3):S161-S167.
Chapter summary
Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is a 14-15-kDa member of the 4α helix bundle family of cytokines that stimulate T and NK (natural killer) cells. IL-15 and IL-2 utilize heterotrimeric receptors that include the cytokine-specific private receptors IL-2Rα and IL-15Rα, as well as two receptor elements that they share, IL-2Rβ and γc. Although IL-2 and IL-15 share two receptor subunits and many functions, at times they provide contrasting contributions to T-cell-mediated immune responses. IL-2, through its pivotal role in activation-induced cell death (AICD), is involved in peripheral tolerance through the elimination of self-reactive T cells. In contrast, IL-15 in general manifests anti-apoptotic actions and inhibits IL-2-mediated AICD. IL-15 stimulates the persistence of memory phenotype CD8+ T cells, whereas IL-2 inhibits their expression. Abnormalities of IL-15 expression have been described in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease and in diseases associated with the retrovirus HTLV-I (human T-cell lymphotropic virus I). Humanized monoclonal antibodies that recognize IL-2Rα, the private receptor for IL-2, are being employed to inhibit allograft rejection and to treat T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. New approaches directed toward inhibiting the actions of the inflammatory cytokine, IL-15, are proposed for an array of autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis as well as diseases associated with the retrovirus HTLV-I.
doi:10.1186/ar584
PMCID: PMC3240159  PMID: 12110135
interleukin-2; interleukin-15; rheumatoid arthritis

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