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1.  Cytokine mRNA and protein expression in primary-culture and repeated-passage synovial fibroblasts from patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research  2001;4(2):117-125.
Constitutive mRNA expression and secretion of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines was comparatively analyzed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial fibroblasts (SFB), isolated from primary culture or derived by repeated passage; normal-skin fibroblasts were used as controls. First-passage RA-SFB (n = 3) secreted large amounts of IL-6 (15,800 ± 2,110 pg/ml; mean ± SEM), but only limited amounts of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α (22.1 ± 1.1 pg/ml) or IL-10 (35.7 ± 34.2 pg/ml; only one of three samples was positive). IL-1β, IL-15, and IL-18 were not detectable at the protein level and showed very low mRNA levels by semiquantitative RT-PCR. In repeated-passage RA-SFB (tenth passage), protein secretion was significantly lower for IL-6 (one-twentieth of the initial level) and TNF-α (two-thirds), and markedly reduced for IL-10 (one-quarter, with only one of three samples positive). While the decrease of IL-10 protein from first to tenth passage was paralleled by a corresponding decrease of mRNA, the relative mRNA levels for IL-6 and TNF-α were actually increased (20-fold and 300-fold, respectively), indicating post-transcriptional and/or post-translational regulation of these cytokines. Due to highly variable levels among individual patients, however, no significant differences were observed for any cytokine mRNA between primary-culture and repeated-passage RA-SFB (ninth passage). Likewise, no significant differences were detectable between RA-SFB and normal-skin fibroblasts (primary-culture and repeated-passage). By producing high amounts of IL-6 and limited amounts of TNF-α, RA-SFB may contribute to the (im)balance of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the inflamed joint.
PMCID: PMC83845  PMID: 11879547
cytokines; inflammation; mRNA; rheumatoid arthritis; synovial fibroblasts
2.  Exosomes from IL-1β stimulated synovial fibroblasts induce osteoarthritic changes in articular chondrocytes 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(4):R163.
Introduction
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a whole joint disease, and characterized by progressive degradation of articular cartilage, synovial hyperplasia, bone remodeling and angiogenesis in various joint tissues. Exosomes are a type of microvesicles (MVs) that may play a role in tissue-tissue and cell-cell communication in homeostasis and diseases. We hypothesized that exosomes function in a novel regulatory network that contributes to OA pathogenesis and examined the function of exosomes in communication among joint tissue cells.
Methods
Human synovial fibroblasts (SFB) and articular chondrocytes were obtained from normal knee joints. Exosomes isolated from conditioned medium of SFB were analyzed for size, numbers, markers and function. Normal articular chondrocytes were treated with exosomes from SFB, and Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) stimulated SFB. OA-related genes expression was quantified using real-time PCR. To analyze exosome effects on cartilage tissue, we performed glycosaminoglycan release assay. Angiogenic activity of these exosomes was tested in migration and tube formation assays. Cytokines and miRNAs in exosomes were analyzed by Bio-Plex multiplex assay and NanoString analysis.
Results
Exosomes from IL-1β stimulated SFB significantly up-regulated MMP-13 and ADAMTS-5 expression in articular chondrocytes, and down-regulated COL2A1 and ACAN compared with SFB derived exosomes. Migration and tube formation activity were significantly higher in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) treated with the exosomes from IL-1β stimulated SFB, which also induced significantly more proteoglycan release from cartilage explants. Inflammatory cytokines, IL-6, MMP-3 and VEGF in exosomes were only detectable at low level. IL-1β, TNFα MMP-9 and MMP-13 were not detectable in exosomes. NanoString analysis showed that levels of 50 miRNAs were differentially expressed in exosomes from IL-1β stimulated SFB compared to non-stimulated SFB.
Conclusions
Exosomes from IL-1β stimulated SFB induce OA-like changes both in vitro and in ex vivo models. Exosomes represent a novel mechanism by which pathogenic signals are communicated among different cell types in OA-affected joints.
doi:10.1186/ar4679
PMCID: PMC4261911  PMID: 25092378
3.  Constitutive upregulation of the transforming growth factor-β pathway in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts 
Genome-wide gene expression was comparatively investigated in early-passage rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) synovial fibroblasts (SFBs; n = 6 each) using oligonucleotide microarrays; mRNA/protein data were validated by quantitative PCR (qPCR) and western blotting and immunohistochemistry, respectively. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) of the microarray data suggested constitutive upregulation of components of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-β pathway in RA SFBs, with 2 hits in the top 30 regulated pathways. The growth factor TGF-β1, its receptor TGFBR1, the TGF-β binding proteins LTBP1/2, the TGF-β-releasing thrombospondin 1 (THBS1), the negative effector SkiL, and the smad-associated molecule SARA were upregulated in RA SFBs compared to OA SFBs, whereas TGF-β2 was downregulated. Upregulation of TGF-β1 and THBS1 mRNA (both positively correlated with clinical markers of disease activity/severity) and downregulation of TGF-β2 mRNA in RA SFBs were confirmed by qPCR. TGFBR1 mRNA (only numerically upregulated in RA SFBs) and SkiL mRNA were not differentially expressed. At the protein level, TGF-β1 showed a slightly higher expression, and the signal-transducing TGFBR1 and the TGF-β-activating THBS1 a significantly higher expression in RA SFBs than in OA SFBs. Consistent with the upregulated TGF-β pathway in RA SFBs, stimulation with TGF-β1 resulted in a significantly enhanced expression of matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP)-11 mRNA and protein in RA SFBs, but not in OA SFBs. In conclusion, RA SFBs show broad, constitutive alterations of the TGF-β pathway. The abundance of TGF-β, in conjunction with an augmented mRNA and/or protein expression of TGF-β-releasing THBS1 and TGFBR1, suggests a pathogenetic role of TGF-β-induced effects on SFBs in RA, for example, the augmentation of MMP-mediated matrix degradation/remodeling.
doi:10.1186/ar2217
PMCID: PMC2206335  PMID: 17594488
4.  Predominant activation of MAP kinases and pro‐destructive/pro‐inflammatory features by TNF α in early‐passage synovial fibroblasts via TNF receptor‐1: failure of p38 inhibition to suppress matrix metalloproteinase‐1 in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(8):1043-1051.
Objective
To examine the relative importance of tumour necrosis factor‐receptor 1 (TNF‐R1) and TNF‐R2 and their signalling pathways for pro‐inflammatory and pro‐destructive features of early‐passage synovial fibroblasts (SFB) from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods
Cells were stimulated with tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α or agonistic anti‐TNF‐R1/TNF‐R2 monoclonal antibodies. Phosphorylation of p38, ERK and JNK kinases was assessed by western blot; proliferation by bromodesoxyuridine incorporation; interleukin (IL)6, IL8, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)‐1 secretion by ELISA; and MMP‐3 secretion by western blot. Functional assays were performed with or without inhibition of p38 (SB203580), ERK (U0126) or JNK (SP600125).
Results
In RA‐ and OA‐SFB, TNFα‐induced phosphorylation of p38, ERK or JNK was exclusively mediated by TNF‐R1. Reduction of proliferation and induction of IL6, IL8 and MMP‐1 were solely mediated by TNF‐R1, whereas PGE2 and MMP‐3 secretion was mediated by both TNF‐Rs. In general, inhibition of ERK or JNK did not significantly alter the TNFα influence on these effector molecules. In contrast, inhibition of p38 reversed TNFα effects on proliferation and IL6/PGE2 secretion (but not on IL8 and MMP‐3 secretion). The above effects were comparable in RA‐ and OA‐SFB, except that TNFα‐induced MMP‐1 secretion was reversed by p38 inhibition only in OA‐SFB.
Conclusion
In early‐passage RA/OA‐SFB, activation of MAPK cascades and pro‐inflammatory/pro‐destructive features by TNFα is predominantly mediated by TNF‐R1 and, for proliferation and IL6/PGE2 secretion, exclusively regulated by p38. Strikingly, RA‐SFB are insensitive to p38 inhibition of MMP‐1 secretion. This indicates a resistance of RA‐SFB to the inhibition of pro‐destructive functions and suggests underlying structural/functional alterations of the p38 pathway, which may contribute to the pathogenesis or therapeutic sensitivity of RA, or both.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.062521
PMCID: PMC1954705  PMID: 17223661
TNF‐receptor; synovial fibroblast; p38 MAP kinase; interleukin; matrix metalloproteinase
5.  Novel application of multi-stimuli network inference to synovial fibroblasts of rheumatoid arthritis patients 
BMC Medical Genomics  2014;7:40.
Background
Network inference of gene expression data is an important challenge in systems biology. Novel algorithms may provide more detailed gene regulatory networks (GRN) for complex, chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in which activated synovial fibroblasts (SFBs) play a major role. Since the detailed mechanisms underlying this activation are still unclear, simultaneous investigation of multi-stimuli activation of SFBs offers the possibility to elucidate the regulatory effects of multiple mediators and to gain new insights into disease pathogenesis.
Methods
A GRN was therefore inferred from RA-SFBs treated with 4 different stimuli (IL-1 β, TNF- α, TGF- β, and PDGF-D). Data from time series microarray experiments (0, 1, 2, 4, 12 h; Affymetrix HG-U133 Plus 2.0) were batch-corrected applying ‘ComBat’, analyzed for differentially expressed genes over time with ‘Limma’, and used for the inference of a robust GRN with NetGenerator V2.0, a heuristic ordinary differential equation-based method with soft integration of prior knowledge.
Results
Using all genes differentially expressed over time in RA-SFBs for any stimulus, and selecting the genes belonging to the most significant gene ontology (GO) term, i.e., ‘cartilage development’, a dynamic, robust, moderately complex multi-stimuli GRN was generated with 24 genes and 57 edges in total, 31 of which were gene-to-gene edges. Prior literature-based knowledge derived from Pathway Studio or manual searches was reflected in the final network by 25/57 confirmed edges (44%). The model contained known network motifs crucial for dynamic cellular behavior, e.g., cross-talk among pathways, positive feed-back loops, and positive feed-forward motifs (including suppression of the transcriptional repressor OSR2 by all 4 stimuli.
Conclusion
A multi-stimuli GRN highly concordant with literature data was successfully generated by network inference from the gene expression of stimulated RA-SFBs. The GRN showed high reliability, since 10 predicted edges were independently validated by literature findings post network inference. The selected GO term ‘cartilage development’ contained a number of differentiation markers, growth factors, and transcription factors with potential relevance for RA. Finally, the model provided new insight into the response of RA-SFBs to multiple stimuli implicated in the pathogenesis of RA, in particular to the ‘novel’ potent growth factor PDGF-D.
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-7-40
PMCID: PMC4099018  PMID: 24989895
Network modeling; Reverse engineering; Rheumatoid arthritis; Synovial fibroblasts; Cytokines; Growth factors; Cartilage development; Multi-stimuli modeling
6.  Adapted Boolean network models for extracellular matrix formation 
BMC Systems Biology  2009;3:77.
Background
Due to the rapid data accumulation on pathogenesis and progression of chronic inflammation, there is an increasing demand for approaches to analyse the underlying regulatory networks. For example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease, characterised by joint destruction and perpetuated by activated synovial fibroblasts (SFB). These abnormally express and/or secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines, collagens causing joint fibrosis, or tissue-degrading enzymes resulting in destruction of the extra-cellular matrix (ECM).
We applied three methods to analyse ECM regulation: data discretisation to filter out noise and to reduce complexity, Boolean network construction to implement logic relationships, and formal concept analysis (FCA) for the formation of minimal, but complete rule sets from the data.
Results
First, we extracted literature information to develop an interaction network containing 18 genes representing ECM formation and destruction. Subsequently, we constructed an asynchronous Boolean network with biologically plausible time intervals for mRNA and protein production, secretion, and inactivation. Experimental gene expression data was obtained from SFB stimulated by TGFβ1 or by TNFα and discretised thereafter. The Boolean functions of the initial network were improved iteratively by the comparison of the simulation runs to the experimental data and by exploitation of expert knowledge. This resulted in adapted networks for both cytokine stimulation conditions.
The simulations were further analysed by the attribute exploration algorithm of FCA, integrating the observed time series in a fine-tuned and automated manner. The resulting temporal rules yielded new contributions to controversially discussed aspects of fibroblast biology (e.g., considerable expression of TNF and MMP9 by fibroblasts stimulation) and corroborated previously known facts (e.g., co-expression of collagens and MMPs after TNFα stimulation), but also revealed some discrepancies to literature knowledge (e.g., MMP1 expression in the absence of FOS).
Conclusion
The newly developed method successfully and iteratively integrated expert knowledge at different steps, resulting in a promising solution for the in-depth understanding of regulatory pathways in disease dynamics. The knowledge base containing all the temporal rules may be queried to predict the functional consequences of observed or hypothetical gene expression disturbances. Furthermore, new hypotheses about gene relations were derived which await further experimental validation.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-3-77
PMCID: PMC2734845  PMID: 19622164
7.  Batch correction of microarray data substantially improves the identification of genes differentially expressed in Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:23.
Background
Batch effects due to sample preparation or array variation (type, charge, and/or platform) may influence the results of microarray experiments and thus mask and/or confound true biological differences. Of the published approaches for batch correction, the algorithm “Combating Batch Effects When Combining Batches of Gene Expression Microarray Data” (ComBat) appears to be most suitable for small sample sizes and multiple batches.
Methods
Synovial fibroblasts (SFB; purity > 98%) were obtained from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) patients (n = 6 each) and stimulated with TNF-α or TGF-β1 for 0, 1, 2, 4, or 12 hours. Gene expression was analyzed using Affymetrix Human Genome U133 Plus 2.0 chips, an alternative chip definition file, and normalization by Robust Multi-Array Analysis (RMA). Data were batch-corrected for different acquiry dates using ComBat and the efficacy of the correction was validated using hierarchical clustering.
Results
In contrast to the hierarchical clustering dendrogram before batch correction, in which RA and OA patients clustered randomly, batch correction led to a clear separation of RA and OA. Strikingly, this applied not only to the 0 hour time point (i.e., before stimulation with TNF-α/TGF-β1), but also to all time points following stimulation except for the late 12 hour time point. Batch-corrected data then allowed the identification of differentially expressed genes discriminating between RA and OA. Batch correction only marginally modified the original data, as demonstrated by preservation of the main Gene Ontology (GO) categories of interest, and by minimally changed mean expression levels (maximal change 4.087%) or variances for all genes of interest. Eight genes from the GO category “extracellular matrix structural constituent” (5 different collagens, biglycan, and tubulointerstitial nephritis antigen-like 1) were differentially expressed between RA and OA (RA > OA), both constitutively at time point 0, and at all time points following stimulation with either TNF-α or TGF-β1.
Conclusion
Batch correction appears to be an extremely valuable tool to eliminate non-biological batch effects, and allows the identification of genes discriminating between different joint diseases. RA-SFB show an upregulated expression of extracellular matrix components, both constitutively following isolation from the synovial membrane and upon stimulation with disease-relevant cytokines or growth factors, suggesting an “imprinted” alteration of their phenotype.
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-5-23
PMCID: PMC3528008  PMID: 22682473
Microarray analysis; Batch correction; Rheumatoid arthritis; Osteoarthritis; Collagen; Extracellular matrix
8.  Acute-phase serum amyloid A production by rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):142-144.
Acute-phase serum amyloid A (A-SAA) is a major component of the acute-phase response. A sustained acute-phase response in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with increased joint damage. A-SAA mRNA expression was confirmed in all samples obtained from patients with RA, but not in normal synovium. A-SAA mRNA expression was also demonstrated in cultured RA synoviocytes. A-SAA protein was identified in the supernatants of primary synoviocyte cultures, and its expression colocalized with sites of macrophage accumulation and with some vascular endothelial cells. It is concluded that A-SAA is produced by inflamed RA synovial tissue. The known association between the acute-phase response and progressive joint damage may be the direct result of synovial A-SAA-induced effects on cartilage degradation.
Introduction:
Serum amyloid A (SAA) is the circulating precursor of amyloid A protein, the fibrillar component of amyloid deposits. In humans, four SAA genes have been described. Two genes (SAA1 and SAA2) encode A-SAA and are coordinately induced in response to inflammation. SAA1 and SAA2 are 95% homologous in both coding and noncoding regions. SAA3 is a pseudogene. SAA4 encodes constitutive SAA and is minimally inducible. A-SAA increases dramatically during acute inflammation and may reach levels that are 1000-fold greater than normal. A-SAA is mainly synthesized in the liver, but extrahepatic production has been demonstrated in many species, including humans. A-SAA mRNA is expressed in RA synoviocytes and in monocyte/macrophage cell lines such as THP-1 cells, in endothelial cells and in smooth muscle cells of atherosclerotic lesions. A-SAA has also been localized to a wide range of histologically normal tissues, including breast, stomach, intestine, pancreas, kidney, lung, tonsil, thyroid, pituitary, placenta, skin and brain.
Aims:
To identify the cell types that produce A-SAA mRNA and protein, and their location in RA synovium.
Materials and methods:
Rheumatoid synovial tissue was obtained from eight patients undergoing arthroscopic biopsy and at joint replacement surgery. Total RNA was analyzed by reverse transcription (RT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for A-SAA mRNA. PCR products generated were confirmed by Southern blot analysis using human A-SAA cDNA. Localization of A-SAA production was examined by immunohistochemistry using a rabbit antihuman A-SAA polyclonal antibody. PrimaryRA synoviocytes were cultured to examine endogenous A-SAA mRNA expression and protein production.
Results:
A-SAA mRNA expression was detected using RT-PCR in all eight synovial tissue samples studied. Figure 1 demonstrates RT-PCR products generated using synovial tissue from three representative RA patients. Analysis of RA synovial tissue revealed differences in A-SAA mRNA levels between individual RA patients.
In order to identify the cells that expressed A-SAA mRNA in RA synovial tissue, we analyzed primary human synoviocytes (n = 2). RT-PCR analysis revealed A-SAA mRNA expression in primary RA synoviocytes (n = 2; Fig. 2). The endogenous A-SAA mRNA levels detected in individual primary RA synoviocytes varied between patients. These findings are consistent with A-SAA expression in RA synovial tissue (Fig. 1). Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) levels were relatively similar in the RA synoviocytes examined (Fig. 2). A-SAA protein in the supernatants of primary synoviocyte cultures from four RA patients was measured using ELISA. Mean values of a control and four RA samples were 77.85, 162.5, 249.8, 321.5 and 339.04 μg/l A-SAA, respectively, confirming the production of A-SAA protein by the primary RA synoviocytes. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed to localize sites of A-SAA production in RA synovial tissue. Positive staining was present in both the lining and sublining layers of all eight RA tissues examined (Fig. 3a). Staining was intense and most prominent in the cells closest to the surface of the synovial lining layer. Positively stained cells were evident in the perivascular areas of the sublining layer. In serial sections stained with anti-CD68 monoclonal antibody, positive staining of macrophages appeared to colocalize with A-SAA-positive cells (Fig. 3b). Immunohistochemical studies of cultured primary RA synoviocytes confirmed specific cytoplasmic A-SAA expression in these cells. The specificity of the staining was confirmed by the absence of staining found on serial sections and synoviocyte cells treated with IgG (Fig. 3c).
Discussion:
This study demonstrates that A-SAA mRNA is expressed in several cell populations infiltrating RA synovial tissue. A-SAA mRNA expression was observed in all eight unseparated RA tissue samples studied. A-SAA mRNA expression and protein production was demonstrated in primary cultures of purified RA synoviocytes. Using immunohistochemical techniques, A-SAA protein appeared to colocalize with both lining layer and sublining layer synoviocytes, macrophages and some endothelial cells. The detection of A-SAA protein in culture media supernatants harvested from unstimulated synoviocytes confirms endogenous A-SAA production, and is consistent with A-SAA mRNA expression and translation by the same cells. Moreover, the demonstration of A-SAA protein in RA synovial tissue, RA cultured synoviocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells is consistent with previous studies that demonstrated A-SAA production by a variety of human cell populations.
The RA synovial lining layer is composed of activated macrophages and fibroblast-like synoviocytes. The macrophage is the predominant cell type and it has been shown to accumulate preferentially in the surface of the lining layer and in the perivascular areas of the sublining layer. Nevertheless, our observations strongly suggest that A-SAA is produced not only by synoviocytes, but also by synovial tissue macrophage populations. Local A-SAA protein production by vascular endothelial cells was detected in some, but not all, of the tissues examined. The reason for the variability in vascular A-SAA staining is unknown, but may be due to differences in endothelial cell activation, events related to angiogenesis or the intensity of local inflammation.
The value of measuring serum A-SAA levels as a reliable surrogate marker of inflammation has been demonstrated for several diseases including RA, juvenile chronic arthritis, psoriatic arthropathy, ankylosing spondylitis, Behçet's disease, reactive arthritis and Crohn's disease. It has been suggested that serum A-SAA levels may represent the most sensitive measurement of the acute-phase reaction. In RA, A-SAA levels provide the strongest correlations with clinical measurements of disease activity, and changes in serum levels best reflect the clinical course.
A number of biologic activities have been described for A-SAA, including several that are relevant to the understanding of inflammatory and tissue-degrading mechanisms in human arthritis. A-SAA induces migration, adhesion and tissue infiltration of circulating monocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes. In addition, human A-SAA can induce interleukin-1β, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and soluble type II tumour necrosis factor receptor production by a monocyte cell line. Moreover, A-SAA can stimulate the production of cartilage-degrading proteases by both human and rabbit synoviocytes. The effects of A-SAA on protease production are interesting, because in RA a sustained acute-phase reaction has been strongly associated with progressive joint damage. The known association between the acute-phase response and progressive joint damage may be the direct result of synovial A-SAA-induced effects on cartilage degradation.
Conclusion:
In contrast to noninflamed synovium, A-SAA mRNA expression was identified in all RA tissues examined. A-SAA appeared to be produced by synovial tissue synoviocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells. The observation of A-SAA mRNA expression in cultured RA synoviocytes and human RA synovial tissue confirms and extends recently published findings that demonstrated A-SAA mRNA expression in stimulated RA synoviocytes, but not in unstimulated RA synoviocytes.
PMCID: PMC17807  PMID: 11062604
acute-phase response; rheumatoid arthritis; serum amyloid A; synovial tissue
9.  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
10.  Development and Retranslational Validation of an In Vitro Model to Characterize Acute Infections in Large Human Joints 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:848604.
Bacterial infections can destroy cartilage integrity, resulting in osteoarthritis. Goal was to develop an in vitro model with in vivo validation of acute joint inflammation. Inflammation in cocultivated human synovial fibroblasts (SFB), chondrocytes (CHDR), and mononuclear cells (MNC) was successively relieved for 10 days. Articular effusions from patients with (n = 7) and without (n = 5) postoperative joint infection in healthy patients (ASA 1-2) were used as model validation. Inflammation in vitro resulted in an enormous increase in IL-1 and a successive reduction in SFB numbers. CHDR however, maintained metabolic activity and proteoglycan synthesis. While concentrations of bFGF in vivo and in vitro rose consistently, the mRNA increase was only moderate. Concurring with our in vivo data, cartilage-specific IGF-1 steadily increased, while IGF-1 mRNA in the CHDR and SFB did not correlate with protein levels. Similarly, aggrecan (ACAN) protein concentrations increased in vivo and failed to correlate in vitro with gene expression in either the CHDR or the SFB, indicating extracellular matrix breakdown. Anabolic cartilage-specific BMP-7 with highly significant intra-articular levels was significantly elevated in vitro on day 10 following maximum inflammation. Our in vitro model enables us to validate early inflammation of in vivo cell- and cytokine-specific regulatory patterns. This trial is registered with MISSinG, DRKS 00003536.
doi:10.1155/2014/848604
PMCID: PMC4021994  PMID: 24877141
11.  CD14-Negative Isolation Enhances Chondrogenesis in Synovial Fibroblasts 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2009;15(11):3261-3270.
Synovial membrane has been shown to contain mesenchymal stem cells. We hypothesized that an enriched population of synovial fibroblasts would undergo chondrogenic differentiation and secrete cartilage extracellular matrix to a greater extent than would a mixed synovial cell population (MSCP). The optimum doses of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) for chondrogenesis were investigated. CD14-negative isolation was used to obtain a porcine cell population enriched in type-B synovial fibroblasts (SFB) from an MSCP. The positive cell surface markers in SFB were CD90, CD44, and cadherin-11. SFB and MSCP were cultured in the presence of 20 ng/mL TGF-β1 for 7 days, and SFB were demonstrated to have higher chondrogenic potential. Further dose–response studies were carried out using the SFB cells and several doses of TGF-β1 (2, 10, 20, and 40 ng/mL) and/or IGF-1 (1, 10, 100, and 500 ng/mL) for 14 days. TGF-β1 supplementation was essential for chondrogenesis and prevention of cell death, whereas IGF-1 did not have a significant effect on the SFB cell number or glycosaminoglycan production. This study demonstrates that the CD14-negative isolation yields an enhanced cell population SFB that is more potent than MSCP as a cell source for cartilage tissue engineering.
doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2008.0273
PMCID: PMC2792095  PMID: 19382853
12.  Active synovial matrix metalloproteinase-2 is associated with radiographic erosions in patients with early synovitis 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):145-153.
Serum and synovial tissue expression of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 and their molecular regulators, MMP-14 and TIMP-2 was examined in 28 patients with inflammatory early synovitis and 4 healthy volunteers and correlated with the presence of erosions in the patients. Immunohistological staining of MMP-2, MMP-14 and TIMP-2 localized to corresponding areas in the synovial lining layer and was almost absent in normal synovium. Patients with radiographic erosions had significantly higher levels of active MMP-2 than patients with no erosions, suggesting that activated MMP-2 levels in synovial tissue may be a marker for a more aggressive synovial lesion.
Introduction:
In cancer the gelatinases [matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9] have been shown to be associated with tissue invasion and metastatic disease. In patients with inflammatory arthritis the gelatinases are expressed in the synovial membrane, and have been implicated in synovial tissue invasion into adjacent cartilage and bone. It is hypothesized that an imbalance between the activators and inhibitors of the gelatinases results in higher levels of activity, enhanced local proteolysis, and bone erosion.
Objectives:
To determine whether the expression and activity levels of MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their regulators MMP-14 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP), are associated with early erosion formation in patients with synovitis of recent onset.
Patients and method:
A subset of 66 patients was selected from a larger early synovitis cohort on the basis of tissue availability for the study of synovial tissue and serum gelatinase expression. Patients with peripheral joint synovitis of less than 1 years' duration were evaluated clinically and serologically on four visits over a period of 12 months. At the initial visit, patients underwent a synovial tissue biopsy of one swollen joint, and patients had radiographic evaluation of hands and feet initially and at 1year. Serum MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-9, MMP-14, and TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 levels were determined, and synovial tissue was examined by immunohistology for the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their molecular regulators. Gelatinolytic activity for MMP-2 and MMP-9 was quantified using a sensitive, tissue-based gel zymography technique. Four healthy individuals underwent closed synovial biopsy and their synovial tissues were similarly analyzed.
Results:
Of the 66 patients studied, 45 fulfilled American College of Rheumatology criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with 32 (71%) being rheumatoid factor positive. Of the 21 non-RA patients, seven had a spondylarthropathy and 14 had undifferentiated arthritis. Radiographically, 12 of the RA patients had erosions at multiple sites by 1 year, whereas none of the non-RA patients had developed erosive disease of this extent. In the tissue, latent MMP-2 was widely expressed in the synovial lining layer and in areas of stromal proliferation in the sublining layer and stroma, whereas MMP-9 was expressed more sparsely and focally. MMP-14, TIMP-2, and MMP-2 were all detected in similar areas of the lining layer on consecutive histologic sections. Tissue expression of MMP-14, the activator for pro-MMP-2, was significantly higher in RA than in non-RA patients (8.4 ± 5 versus 3.7 ± 4 cells/high-power field; P = 0.009). In contrast, the expression of TIMP-2, an inhibitor of MMP-2, was lower in the RA than in the non-RA samples (25 ± 12 versus 39 ± 9 cells/high-power field; P = 0.01). Synovial tissue expressions of MMP-2, MMP-14, and TIMP-2 were virtually undetectable in normal synovial tissue samples. The synovial tissue samples of patients with erosive disease had significantly higher levels of active MMP-2 than did those of patients without erosions (Fig. 1). Tissue expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, however, did not correlate with the serum levels of these enzymes.
With the exception of serum MMP-2, which was not elevated over normal, serum levels of all of the other MMPs and TIMPs were elevated to varying degrees, and were not predictive of erosive disease. Interestingly, MMP-1 and C-reactive protein, both of which were associated with the presence of erosions, were positively correlated with each other (r = 0.42; P < 0.001).
Discussion:
MMP-2 and MMP-9 are thought to play an important role in the evolution of joint erosions in patients with an inflammatory arthritis. Most studies have concentrated on the contribution of MMP-9 to the synovitis, because synovial fluid and serum MMP-9 levels are markedly increased in inflammatory arthropathies. Previously reported serum levels of MMP-9 have varied widely. In the present sample of patients with synovitis of recent onset, serum MMP-9 levels were elevated in only 21%. Moreover, these elevations were not specific for RA, the tissue expression of MMP-9 was focal, and the levels of MMP-9 activity were not well correlated with early erosions. Although serum MMP-2 levels were not of prognostic value, high synovial tissue levels of MMP-2 activity were significantly correlated with the presence of early erosions. This may reflect augmented activation of MMP-2 by the relatively high levels of MMP-14 and low levels of TIMP-2 seen in these tissues. We were able to localize the components of this trimolecular complex to the synovial lining layer in consecutive tissue sections, a finding that is consistent with their colocalization.
In conclusion, we have provided evidence that active MMP-2 complexes are detectable in the inflamed RA synovium and may be involved in the development of early bony erosions. These results suggest that strategies to inhibit the activation of MMP-2 may have the potential for retarding or preventing early erosions in patients with inflammatory arthritis.
PMCID: PMC17808  PMID: 11062605
early synovitis; erosion; metalloproteinase; matrix metalloproteinase-2; rheumatoid arthritis
13.  The effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on matrix metalloproteinase and prostaglandin E2 production by cells of the rheumatoid lesion 
Arthritis Research  1999;1(1):63-70.
The biologically active metabolite of vitamin D3, 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)2D3], acts through vitamin D receptors, which were found in rheumatoid tissues in the present study. IL-1β-activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocytes were shown to respond differently to exposure to 1α,25(OH)2D3, which has different effects on the regulatory pathways of specific matrix metalloproteinases and prostaglandin E2.
Introduction:
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)2D3], the biologically active metabolite of vitamin D3, acts through an intracellular vitamin D receptor (VDR) and has several immunostimulatory effects. Animal studies have shown that production of some matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) may be upregulated in rat chondrocytes by administration of 1α,25(OH)2D3; and cell cultures have suggested that 1α,25(OH)2D3 may affect chondrocytic function. Discoordinate regulation by vitamin D of MMP-1 and MMP-9 in human mononuclear phagocytes has also been reported. These data suggest that vitamin D may regulate MMP expression in tissues where VDRs are expressed. Production of 1α,25(OH)2D3 within synovial fluids of arthritic joints has been shown and VDRs have been found in rheumatoid synovial tissues and at sites of cartilage erosion. The physiological function of 1α,25(OH)2D3 at these sites remains obscure. MMPs play a major role in cartilage breakdown in the rheumatoid joint and are produced locally by several cell types under strict control by regulatory factors. As 1α,25(OH)2D3 modulates the production of specific MMPs and is produced within the rheumatoid joint, the present study investigates its effects on MMP and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production in two cell types known to express chondrolytic enzymes.
Aims:
To investigate VDR expression in rheumatoid tissues and to examine the effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on cultured rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts (RSFs) and human articular chondrocytes (HACs) with respect to MMP and PGE2 production.
Methods:
Rheumatoid synovial tissues were obtained from arthroplasty procedures on patients with late-stage rheumatoid arthritis; normal articular cartilage was obtained from lower limb amputations. Samples were embedded in paraffin, and examined for presence of VDRs by immunolocalisation using a biotinylated antibody and alkaline-phosphatase-conjugated avidin-biotin complex system. Cultured synovial fibroblasts and chondrocytes were treated with either 1α,25(OH)2D3, or interleukin (IL)-1β or both. Conditioned medium was assayed for MMP and PGE2 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and the results were normalised relative to control values.
Results:
The rheumatoid synovial tissue specimens (n = 18) immunostained for VDRs showed positive staining but at variable distributions and in no observable pattern. VDR-positive cells were also observed in association with some cartilage-pannus junctions (the rheumatoid lesion). MMP production by RSFs in monolayer culture was not affected by treatment with 1α,25(OH)2D3 alone, but when added simultaneously with IL-1β the stimulation by IL-1β was reduced from expected levels by up to 50%. In contrast, 1α,25(OH)2D3 had a slight stimulatory effect on basal production of MMPs 1 and 3 by monolayer cultures of HACs, but stimulation of MMP-1 by IL-1β was not affected by the simultaneous addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3 whilst MMP-3 production was enhanced (Table 1). The production of PGE2 by RSFs was unaffected by 1α,25(OH)2D3 addition, but when added concomitantly with IL-1β the expected IL-1 β-stimulated increase was reduced to almost basal levels. In contrast, IL-1β stimulation of PGE2 in HACs was not affected by the simultaneous addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3 (Table 2). Pretreatment of RSFs with 1α,25(OH)2D3 for 1 h made no significant difference to IL-1β-induced stimulation of PGE2, but incubation for 16 h suppressed the expected increase in PGE2 to control values. This effect was also noted when 1α,25(OH)2D3 was removed after the 16h and the IL-1 added alone. Thus it appears that 1α,25(OH)2D3 does not interfere with the IL-1β receptor, but reduces the capacity of RSFs to elaborate PGE2 after IL-1β induction.
Discussion:
Cells within the rheumatoid lesion which expressed VDR were fibroblasts, macrophages, lymphocytes and endothelial cells. These cells are thought to be involved in the degradative processes associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), thus providing evidence of a functional role of 1α,25(OH)2D3 in RA. MMPs may play important roles in the chondrolytic processes of the rheumatoid lesion and are known to be produced by both fibroblasts and chondrocytes. The 1α,25(OH)2D3 had little effect on basal MMP production by RSFs, although more pronounced differences were noted when IL-1β-stimulated cells were treated with 1α,25(OH)2D3, with the RSF and HAC showing quite disparate responses. These opposite effects may be relevant to the processes of joint destruction, especially cartilage loss, as the ability of 1α,25(OH)2D3 to potentiate MMP-1 and MMP-3 expression by 'activated' chondrocytes might facilitate intrinsic cartilage chondrolysis in vivo. By contrast, the MMP-suppressive effects observed for 1α,25(OH)2D3 treatment of 'activated' synovial fibroblasts might reduce extrinsic chondrolysis and also matrix degradation within the synovial tissue. Prostaglandins have a role in the immune response and inflammatory processes associated with RA. The 1α,25(OH)2D3 had little effect on basal PGE2 production by RSF, but the enhanced PGE2 production observed following IL-1β stimulation of these cells was markedly suppressed by the concomitant addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3. As with MMP production, there are disparate effects of 1α,25(OH)2D3 on IL-1β stimulated PGE2 production by the two cell types; 1α,25(OH)2D3 added concomitantly with IL-1β had no effect on PGE2 production by HACs. In summary, the presence of VDRs in the rheumatoid lesion demonstrates that 1α,25(OH)2D3 may have a functional role in the joint disease process. 1α,25(OH)2D3 does not appear to directly affect MMP or PGE2 production but does modulate cytokine-induced production.
Comparative effects of 1 α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1 α,25D3) on interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 and MMP-3 production by rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocytes in vivo
Data given are normalized relative to control values and are expressed ± SEM for three cultures of each cell type.
Comparative effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1α,25D3) on Interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated prostaglandin E2 production by rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocyte in vivo
Data given are normalized relative to control values and are expressed ± SEM for three cultures of each cell type.
PMCID: PMC17774  PMID: 11056661
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3; matrix metalloproteinase; prostaglandin E2; rheumatoid arthritis
14.  Isolation and characterization of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts from primary culture — primary culture cells markedly differ from fourth-passage cells 
Arthritis Research  2000;3(1):72-76.
To reduce culture artifacts by conventional repeated passaging and long-term culture in vitro, the isolation of synovial fibroblasts (SFB) was attempted from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial membranes by trypsin/collagenase digest, short-term in vitro adherence (7 days), and negative isolation using magnetobead-coupled anti-CD14 monoclonal antibodies. This method yielded highly enriched SFB (85% prolyl-4-hydroxylase+/74% Thy-1/CD90+ cells; <2% contaminating macrophages; <1% leukocytes/endothelial cells) that, in comparison with conventional fourth-passage RA-SFB, showed a markedly different phenotype and significantly lower proliferation rates upon stimulation with platelet-derived growth factor and IL-1β. This isolation method is simple and reliable, and may yield cells with features closer to the in vivo configuration of RA-SFB by avoiding extended in vitro culture.
PMCID: PMC17827  PMID: 11178129
isolation; phenotype/function; primary culture; rheumatoid arthritis; synovial fibroblasts
15.  Kinesin-like protein CENP-E is upregulated in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts 
Arthritis Research  1999;1(1):71-80.
Our aim was to identify specifically expressed genes using RNA arbitrarily primed (RAP)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for differential display in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In RA, amplification of a distinct PCR product suitable for sequencing could be observed. Sequence analysis identified the PCR product as highly homologous to a 434 base pair segment of the human centromere kinesin-like protein CENP-E. Differential expression of CENP-E was confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription PCR, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. CENP-E expression was independent from prednisolone and could not be completely inhibited by serum starvation. RAP-PCR is a suitable method to identify differentially expressed genes in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts. Also, because motifs of CENP-E show homologies to jun and fos oncogene products and are involved in virus assembly, CENP-E may be involved in the pathophysiology of RA.
Introduction:
Articular destruction by invading synovial fibroblasts is a typical feature in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Recent data support the hypothesis that key players in this scenario are transformed-appearing synovial fibroblasts at the site of invasion into articular cartilage and bone. They maintain their aggressive phenotype toward cartilage, even when first cultured and thereafter coimplanted together with normal human cartilage into severe combined immunodeficient mice for an extended period of time. However, little is known about the upregulation of genes that leads to this aggressive fibroblast phenotype. To inhibit this progressive growth without interfering with pathways of physiological matrix remodelling, identification of pathways that operate specifically in RA synovial fibroblasts is required. In order to achieve this goal, identification of genes showing upregulation restricted to RA synovial fibroblasts is essential.
Aims:
To identify specifically expressed genes using RNA arbitrarily primed (RAP)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for differential display in patients with RA.
Methods:
RNA was extracted from cultured synovial fibroblasts from 10 patients with RA, four patients with osteoarthritis (OA), and one patient with psoriatic arthritis. RAP-PCR was performed using different arbitrary primers for first-strand and second-strand synthesis. First-strand and second-strand synthesis were performed using arbitrary primers: US6 (5' -GTGGTGACAG-3') for first strand, and Nuclear 1+ (5' -ACGAAGAAGAG-3'), OPN28 (5' -GCACCAGGGG-3'), Kinase A2+ (5' -GGTGCCTTTGG-3')and OPN24 (5' -AGGGGCACCA-3') for second-strand synthesis. PCR reactions were loaded onto 8 mol/l urea/6% polyacrylamide-sequencing gels and electrophoresed.Gel slices carrying the target fragment were then excised with a razor blade, eluated and reamplified. After verifying their correct size and purity on 4% agarose gels, the reamplified products derived from the single-strand confirmation polymorphism gel were cloned, and five clones per transcript were sequenced. Thereafter, a GenBank® analysis was performed. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR of the segments was performed using the PCR MIMIC® technique.In-situ expression of centromere kinesin-like protein-E (CENP-E) messenger (m)RNA in RA synovium was assessed using digoxigenin-labelled riboprobes, and CENP-E protein expression in fibroblasts and synovium was performed by immunogold-silver immunohistochemistry and cytochemistry. Functional analysis of CENP-E was done using different approaches (eg glucocorticoid stimulation, serum starvation and growth rate analysis of synovial fibroblasts that expressed CENP-E).
Results:
In RA, amplification of a distinct PCR product suitable for sequencing could be observed. The indicated complementary DNA fragment of 434 base pairs from RA mRNA corresponded to nucleotides 6615-7048 in the human centromere kinesin-like protein CENP-E mRNA (GenBank® accession No. emb/Z15005).The isolated sequence shared greater than 99% nucleic acid (P = 2.9e-169) identity with the human centromere kinesin-like protein CENP-E. Two base changes at positions 6624 (A to C) and 6739 (A to G) did not result in alteration in the amino acid sequence, and therefore 100% amino acid identity could be confirmed. The amplification of 10 clones of the cloned RAP product revealed the presence of CENP-E mRNA in every fibroblast culture examined, showing from 50% (271.000 ± 54.000 phosphor imager arbitrary units) up to fivefold (961.000 ± 145.000 phosphor imager arbitrary units) upregulation when compared with OA fibroblasts. Neither therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs such as methotrexate, gold, resochine or cyclosporine A, nor therapy with oral steroids influenced CENP-E expression in the RA fibroblasts. Of the eight RA fibroblast populations from RA patients who were receiving disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, five showed CENP-E upregulation; and of the eight fibroblast populations from RA patients receiving steroids, four showed CENP-E upregulation.
Numerous synovial cells of the patients with RA showed a positive in situ signal for the isolated CENP-E gene segment, confirming CENP-E mRNA production in rheumatoid synovium, whereas in OA synovial tissue CENP-E mRNA could not be detected. In addition, CENP-E expression was independent from medication. This was further confirmed by analysis of the effect of prednisolone on CENP-E expression, which revealed no alteration in CENP-E mRNA after exposure to different (physiological) concentrations of prednisolone. Serum starvation also could not suppress CENP-E mRNA completely.
Discussion:
Since its introduction in 1992, numerous variants of the differential display method and continuous improvements including RAP-PCR have proved to have both efficiency and reliability in examination of differentially regulated genes. The results of the present study reveal that RAP-PCR is a suitable method to identify differentially expressed genes in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts.
The mRNA, which has been found to be upregulated in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts, codes for a kinesin-like motor protein named CENP-E, which was first characterized in 1991. It is a member of a family of centromere-associated proteins, of which six (CENP-A to CENP-F) are currently known. CENP-E itself is a kinetochore motor, which accumulates transiently at kinetochores in the G2 phase of the cell cycle before mitosis takes place, appears to modulate chromosome movement and spindle elongation,and is degraded at the end of mitosis. The presence or upregulation of CENP-E has never been associated with RA.
The three-dimensional structure of CENP-E includes a coiled-coil domain. This has important functions and shows links to known pathways in RA pathophysiology. Coiled-coil domains can also be found in jun and fos oncogene products, which are frequently upregulated in RA synovial fibroblasts. They are also involved in DNA binding and transactivation processes resembling the situation in AP-1 (Jun/Fos)-dependent DNA-binding in rheumatoid synovium. Most interestingly, these coiled-coil motifs are crucial for the assembly of viral proteins, and the upregulation of CENP-E might reflect the influence of infectious agents in RA synovium. We also performed experiments showing that serum starvation decreased, but did not completely inhibit CENP-E mRNA expression. This shows that CENP-E is related to, but does not completely depend on proliferation of these cells. In addition, we determined the growth rate of CENP-E high and low expressors, showing that it was independent from the amount of CENP-E expression. supporting the statement that upregulation of CENP-E reflects an activated RA fibroblast phenotype. In summary, the results of the present study support the hypothesis that CENP-E, presumably independently from medication, may not only be upregulated, but may also be involved in RA pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC17776  PMID: 11056662
arthritis; centromere; differential display; immunohistochemistry; in situ hybridization; RNA fingerprinting
16.  Macrophage specificity of three anti-CD68 monoclonal antibodies (KP1, EBM11, and PGM1) widely used for immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2004;63(7):774-784.
Objectives: To investigate the specificity of three anti-CD68 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for macrophages (Mφ) in immunohistochemistry (IHC) and flow cytometry (FACS).
Methods: IHC was performed on cryostat sections of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) synovial membranes using the anti-CD68 mAbs KP1, EBM11, and PGM1, and the fibroblast (FB) markers CD90 and prolyl 4-hydroxylase. Expression of CD68 was also analysed by FACS on the monocytic cell lines THP-1 and U937, as well as on synovial fibroblasts (SFB), skin FB, and gingival FB (both surface and intracellular staining).
Results: In IHC, there was an overlap between CD68 (mAbs KP1 and EBM11) and the FB markers CD90/prolyl 4-hydroxylase in the lining layer, diffuse infiltrates, and stroma of RA and OA synovial membranes. In FACS analysis of THP-1 and U937 cells, the percentage of cells positive for the anti-CD68 mAbs KP1 and EBM11 progressively increased from surface staining of unfixed cells, to surface staining of pre-fixed cells, to intracellular staining of the cells. Upon intracellular FACS of different FB, nearly all cells were positive for KP1 and EBM11, but only a small percentage for PGM1. In surface staining FACS, a small percentage of FB were positive for all three anti-CD68 mAbs.
Conclusion: An overlap between CD68 (mAbs KP1 or EBM11) and the FB markers CD90 or prolyl 4-hydroxylase may prevent unequivocal identification of Mφ in synovial tissue by IHC or in monocytic cells and FB upon intracellular FACS. This may be due to sharing of common markers by completely different cell lineages.
doi:10.1136/ard.2003.013029
PMCID: PMC1755048  PMID: 15194571
17.  Specificity of T cells in synovial fluid: high frequencies of CD8+ T cells that are specific for certain viral epitopes 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):154-164.
CD8+ T cells dominate the lymphocyte population in synovial fluid in chronic inflammatory arthritis. It is known that these CD8+ T cells are often clonally or oligoclonally expanded, but their specificity and their relevance to the pathogenesis of joint disease has remained unclear. We found that as many as 15.5% of synovial CD8+ T cells may be specific for a single epitope from an Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle protein. The virus-specific T cells within the joint showed increased expression of markers of activation and differentiation compared with those in the periphery, and retained their functional capacity to secrete proinflammatory cytokines on stimulation. These activated, virus-specific CD8+ T cells could therefore interact with synoviocytes, either by cell-cell contact or by a cytokine network, and play a 'bystander' role in the maintenance of inflammation in patients with arthritis.
Introduction:
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is transmitted orally, replicates in the oropharynx and establishes life-long latency in human B lymphocytes. T-cell responses to latent and lytic/replicative cycle proteins are readily detectable in peripheral blood from healthy EBV-seropositive individuals. EBV has also been detected within synovial tissue, and T-cell responses to EBV lytic proteins have been reported in synovial fluid from a patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This raises the question regarding whether T cells specific for certain viruses might be present at high frequencies within synovial fluid and whether such T cells might be activated or able to secrete cytokines. If so, they might play a 'bystander' role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory joint disease.
Objectives:
To quantify and characterize T cells that are specific for epitopes from EBV, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and influenza in peripheral blood and synovial fluid from patients with arthritis.
Methods:
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and synovial fluid mononuclear cells (SFMCs) were obtained from patients with inflammatory arthritis (including those with RA, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis). Samples from human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-A2-positive donors were stained with fluorescent-labelled tetramers of HLA-A2 complexed with the GLCTLVAML peptide epitope from the EBV lytic cycle protein BMLF1, the GILGFVFTL peptide epitope from the influenza A matrix protein, or the NLVPMVATV epitope from the CMV pp65 protein. Samples from HLA-B8-positive donors were stained with fluorescent-labelled tetramers of HLA-B8 complexed with the RAKFKQLL peptide epitope from the EBV lytic protein BZLF1 or the FLRGRAYGL peptide epitope from the EBV latent protein EBNA3A. All samples were costained with an antibody specific for CD8. CD4+ T cells were not analyzed. Selected samples were costained with antibodies specific for cell-surface glycoproteins, in order to determine the phenotype of the T cells within the joint and the periphery. Functional assays to detect release of IFN-γ or tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α were also performed on some samples.
Results:
The first group of 15 patients included 10 patients with RA, one patient with reactive arthritis, one patient with psoriatic arthritis and three patients with osteoarthritis. Of these, 11 were HLA-A2 positive and five were HLA-B8 positive. We used HLA-peptide tetrameric complexes to analyze the frequency of EBV-specific T cells in PBMCs and SFMCs (Figs 1 and 2). Clear enrichment of CD8+ T cells specific for epitopes from the EBV lytic cycle proteins was seen within synovial fluid from almost all donors studied, including patients with psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis and those with RA. In donor RhA6, 9.5% of CD8+ SFMCs were specific for the HLA-A2 restricted GLCTLVAML epitope, compared with 0.5% of CD8+ PBMCs. Likewise in a donor with osteoarthritis (NR4), 15.5% of CD8+ SFMCs were specific for the HLA-B8-restricted RAKFKQLL epitope, compared with 0.4% of CD8+ PBMCs. In contrast, we did not find enrichment of T cells specific for the HLA-B8-restricted FLRGRAYGL epitope (from the latent protein EBNA3A) within SFMCs compared with PBMCs in any donors. In selected individuals we performed ELISpot assays to detect IFN-γ secreted by SFMCs and PBMCs after a short incubation in vitro with peptide epitopes from EBV lytic proteins. These assays confirmed enrichment of T cells specific for epitopes from EBV lytic proteins within synovial fluid and showed that subpopulations of these cells were able to secrete proinflammatory cytokines after short-term stimulation.
We used a HLA-A2/GILGFVFTL tetramer to stain PBMCs and SFMCs from six HLA-A2-positive patients. The proportion of T cells specific for this influenza epitope was low (<0.2%) in all donors studied, and we did not find any enrichment within SFMCs.
We had access to SFMCs only from a second group of four HLA-A2-positive patients with RA. A tetramer of HLA-A2 complexed to the NLVPMVATV epitope from the CMV pp65 protein reacted with subpopulations of CD8+ SFMCs in all four donors, with frequencies of 0.2, 0.5, 2.3 and 13.9%. SFMCs from all four donors secreted TNF after short-term incubation with COS cells transfected with HLA-A2 and pp65 complementary DNA. We analyzed the phenotype of virus-specific cells within PBMCs and SFMCs in three donors. The SFMC virus-specific T cells were more highly activated than those in PBMCs, as evidenced by expression of high levels of CD69 and HLA-DR. A greater proportion of SFMCs were CD38+, CD62L low, CD45RO bright, CD45RA dim, CD57+ and CD28- when compared with PBMCs.
Discussion:
This work shows that T cells specific for certain epitopes from viral proteins are present at very high frequencies (up to 15.5% of CD8+ T cells) within SFMCs taken from patients with inflammatory joint disease. This enrichment does not reflect a generalized enrichment for the 'memory pool' of T cells; we did not find enrichment of T cells specific for the GILGFVFTL epitope from influenza A or for the FLRGRAYGL epitope from the EBV latent protein EBNA3A, whereas we found clear enrichment of T cells specific for the GLCTLVAML epitope from the EBV lytic protein BMLF1 and for the RAKFKQLL epitope from the EBV lytic protein BZLF1.
The enrichment might reflect preferential recruitment of subpopulations of virus-specific T cells, perhaps based on expression of selectins, chemokine receptors or integrins. Alternatively, T cells specific for certain viral epitopes may be stimulated to proliferate within the joint, by viral antigens themselves or by cross-reactive self-antigens. Finally, it is theoretically possible that subpopulations of T cells within the joint are preferentially protected from apoptotic cell death. Whatever the explanation, the virus-specific T cells are present at high frequency, are activated and are able to secrete proinflammatory cytokines. They could potentially interact with synoviocytes and contribute to the maintenance of inflammation within joints in many different forms of inflammatory arthritis.
PMCID: PMC17809  PMID: 11062606
CD8+ T cell; Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle; human leucocyte antigen peptide tetrameric complex; rheumatoid arthritis; viral immunity
18.  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
19.  FcgammaR expression on macrophages is related to severity and chronicity of synovial inflammation and cartilage destruction during experimental immune-complex-mediated arthritis (ICA) 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(6):489-503.
We investigated the role of Fcγ receptors (FcγRs) on synovial macrophages in immune-complex-mediated arthritis (ICA). ICA elicited in knee joints of C57BL/6 mice caused a short-lasting, florid inflammation and reversible loss of proteoglycans (PGs), moderate chondrocyte death, and minor erosion of the cartilage. In contrast, when ICA was induced in knee joints of Fc receptor (FcR) γ-chain-/- C57BL/6 mice, which lack functional FcγRI and RIII, inflammation and cartilage destruction were prevented. When ICA was elicited in DBA/1 mice, a very severe, chronic inflammation was observed, and significantly more chondrocyte death and cartilage erosion than in arthritic C57BL/6 mice. The synovial lining and peritoneal macrophages of naïve DBA/1 mice expressed a significantly higher level of FcγRs than was seen in C57BL/6 mice. Moreover, elevated and prolonged expression of IL-1 was found after stimulation of these cells with immune complexes. Zymosan or streptococcal cell walls caused comparable inflammation and only mild cartilage destruction in all strains. We conclude that FcγR expression on synovial macrophages may be related to the severity of synovial inflammation and cartilage destruction during ICA.
Introduction:
Fcγ receptors (FcγRs) present on cells of the haematopoietic lineage communicate with IgG-containing immune complexes that are abundant in the synovial tissue of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In mice, three classes of FcγR (RI, RII, and RIII) have been described. Binding of these receptors leads to either activation (FcγRI and RIII) or deactivation (FcγRII) of intracellular transduction pathways. Together, the expression of activating and inhibitory receptors is thought to drive immune-complex-mediated diseases.
Earlier studies in our laboratory showed that macrophages of the synovial lining are of utmost importance in the onset and propagation of immune-complex-driven arthritic diseases. Selective depletion of macrophages in the joint downregulated both inflammation and cartilage destruction. As all three classes of FcγR are expressed on synovial macrophages, these cells are among the first that come in contact with immune complexes deposited in the joint. Recently, we observed that when immune complexes were injected into the knee joints of mice, strains susceptible to collagen-type-II arthritis (DBA/1, B10.RIII) developed more severe arthritis than nonsusceptible strains did, or even developed chronic arthritis. One reason why these strains are more susceptible might be their higher levels of FcγRs on macrophage membranes. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the role of FcγRs in inflammation and cartilage damage during immune-complex-mediated arthritis (ICA). First, we studied arthritis and subsequent cartilage damage in mice lacking functional FcγRI and RIII (FcR γ-chain-/- mice). Next, DBA/1 mice, which are prone to develop collagen-type-II arthritis (`collagen-induced arthritis'; CIA) and are hypersensitive to immune complexes, were compared with control C57BL/6 mice as regards cartilage damage and the expression and function of FcγRs on their macrophages.
Aims:
To examine whether FcγR expression on macrophages is related to severity of synovial inflammation and cartilage destruction during immune-complex-mediated joint inflammation.
Methods:
ICA was induced in three strains of mice (FcR γ-chain-/-, C57BL/6, and DBA/1, which have, respectively, no functional FcγRI and RIII, intermediate basal expression of FcγRs, and high basal expression of FcγRs) by passive immunisation using rabbit anti-lysozyme antibodies, followed by poly-L-lysine lysozyme injection into the right knee joint 1 day later. In other experiments, streptococcal-cell-wall (SCW)- or zymosan-induced arthritis was induced by injecting SCW (25 μg) or zymosan (180 μg) directly into the knee joint. At several time points after arthritis induction, knee joints were dissected and studied either histologically (using haematoxylin/eosin or safranin O staining) or immuno-histochemically. The arthritis severity and the cartilage damage were scored separately on an arbitrary scale of 0-3.
FcγRs were immunohistochemically detected using the monoclonal antibody 2.4G2, which detects both FcγRII and RIII. Deposition of IgG and C3c in the arthritic joint tissue was also detected immunohistochemically. Expression of FcγRs by murine peritoneal macrophages was measured using a fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS).
Peritoneal macrophages were stimulated using heat-aggregated gamma globulins (HAGGs), and production of IL-1 was measured using a bioassay. To assess the levels of IL-1 and its receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) during arthritis, tissue was dissected and washed in RPMI medium. Washouts were tested for levels of IL-1 and IL-1Ra using radioimmunoassay and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. mRNA was isolated from the tissue, and levels of macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-2, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, IL-1, and IL-1Ra were determined using semiquantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Results:
ICA induced in knee joints of C57BL/6 mice caused a florid inflammation at day 3 after induction. To investigate whether this arthritis was FcγR-mediated, ICA was induced in FcR γ-chain-/- mice, which lack functional FcγRI and RIII. At day3, virtually no inflammatory cells were found in their knee joints. Levels of mRNA of IL-1, IL-1Ra, MCP-1, and MIP-2, which are involved in the onset of this arthritis, were significantly lower in FcR γ-chain-/- mice than in control C57BL/6 mice. Levels of IL-1 protein were also measured. At 6 h after ICA induction, FcR γ-chain-/- mice and control C57BL/6 mice showed similar IL-1 production as measured by protein level. By 24 h after induction, however, IL-1 production in the FcR γ-chain-/- mice was below the detection limit, whereas the controls were still producing a significant amount. To investigate whether the difference in reaction to immune complexes between the DBA/1 and C57BL/6 mice might be due to variable expression of FcγRs in the knee joint, expression in situ of FcγRs in naïve knee joints of these mice was determined. The monoclonal antibody 2.4G2, which detects both FcγRII and RIII, stained macrophages from the synovial lining of DBA/1 mice more intensely than those from C57BL/6 mice. This finding suggests a higher constitutive expression of FcγRs by macrophages of the autoimmune-prone DBA/1 mice. To quantify the difference in FcγR expression on macrophages of the two strains, we determined the occurrence of FcγRs on peritoneal macrophages by FACS analysis. The levels of FcγR expressed by macrophages were twice as high in the DBA/1 mice as in the C57BL/6 mice (mean fluorescence, respectively, 440 ± 50 and 240 ± 30 intensity per cell). When peritoneal macrophages of both strains were stimulated with immune complexes (HAGGs), we found that the difference in basal FcγR expression was functional. The stimulated macrophages from DBA/1 mice had significantly higher IL-1α levels (120 and 135 pg/ml at 24 and 48 h, respectively) than cells from C57BL/6 mice (45 and 50 pg/ml, respectively).
When arthritis was induced using other arthritogenic triggers than immune complexes (zymosan, SCW), all the mouse strains tested (DBA/1, FcR γ-chain-/-, and C57BL/6) showed similar inflammation, indicating that the differences described above are found only when immune complexes are used to elicit arthritis.
We next compared articular cartilage damage in arthritic joints of the three mouse strains FcR γ-chain-/-, C57BL/6 (intermediate basal expression of FcγRs), and DBA/1 (high basal expression of FcγRs). Three indicators of cartilage damage were investigated: depletion of PGs, chondrocyte death, and erosion of the cartilage matrix. At day 3 after induction of ICA, there was no PG depletion in FcR γ-chain-/- mice, whereas PG depletion in the matrix of the C57BL/6 mice was marked and that in the arthritic DBA/1 mice was even greater. PG depletion was still massive at days 7 and 14 in the DBA/1 mice, whereas by day 14 the PG content was almost completely restored in knee joints of the C57BL/6 mice. Chondrocyte death and erosion of cartilage matrix, two indicators of more severe cartilage destruction, were significantly higher in the DBA/1 than in the C57BL/6 mice, while both indicators were completely absent in the FcR γ-chain-/- mice. Again, when arthritis was induced using other triggers (SCW, zymosan), all strains showed similar PG depletion and no chondrocyte death or matrix erosion. These findings underline the important role of immune complexes and FcγRs in irreversible cartilage damage.
Discussion:
Our findings indicate that inflammation and subsequent cartilage damage caused by immune complexes may be related to the occurrence of FcγRs on macrophages. The absence of functional FcγRI and RIII prevented inflammation and cartilage destruction after induction of ICA, whereas high basal expression of FcγRs on resident joint macrophages of similarly treated mice susceptible to autoimmune arthritis was correlated with markedly more synovial inflammation and cartilage destruction. The difference in joint inflammation between the three strains was not due to different susceptibilities to inflammation per se, since intra-articular injection of zymosan or SCW caused comparable inflammation. Although extensive inflammatory cell mass was found in the synovium of all strains after intra-articular injection of zymosan, no irreversible cartilage damage (chondrocyte death or matrix erosion) was found. ICA induced in C57BL/6 and DBA/1 mice did cause irreversible cartilage damage at later time points, indicating that immune complexes and FcγRs play an important role in inducing irreversible cartilage damage. Macrophages communicate with immune complexes via Fcγ receptors. Absence of functional activating receptors completely abrogates the synovial inflammation, as was shown after ICA induction in FcR γ-chain-/- mice. However, the γ-chain is essential not only in FcγRI and RIII but also for FcεRI (found on mast cells) and the T cell receptor (TcR)-CD3 (Tcells) complex of γδT cells. However, T, B, or mast cells do not play a role in this arthritis that is induced by passive immunisation. Furthermore, this effect was not caused by a difference in clearance of IgG or complement deposition in the tissue. In this study, DBA/1 mice, which are susceptible to collagen-induced autoimmune arthritis and in a recent study have been shown to react hypersensitively to immune complexes, are shown to express higher levels of FcγRs on both synovial and peritoneal macrophages. Because antibodies directed against the different subclasses of FcγR are not available, no distinction could be made between FcγRII and RIII. Genetic differences in DBA/1 mice in genes coding for or regulating FcγRs may be responsible for altered FcγR expression. If so, these mouse strains would have a heightened risk for immune-complex-mediated diseases.
To provide conclusive evidence for the roles of the various classes of FcγR during ICA, experiments are needed in which FcγRs are blocked with specific antibodies, or in which knockout mice lacking one specific class of FcγR are used. The only available specific antibody to FcγR (2.4G2) has a stimulatory effect on cells once bound to the receptor, and therefore cannot be used in blocking experiments. Experiments using specific knockout mice are now being done in our laboratory.
Macrophages are the dominant type of cell present in chronic inflammation during RA and their number has been shown to correlate well with severe cartilage destruction. Apart from that, in humans, these synovial tissue macrophages express activating FcRs, mainly FcγIIIa, which may lead to activation of these macrophages by IgG-containing immune complexes. The expression of FcRs on the surface of these cells may have important implications for joint inflammation and severe cartilage destruction and therefore FCRs may constitute a new target for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC17821  PMID: 11056679
autoimmunity; cytokines; Fc receptors; inflammation; macrophages
20.  Plasma and synovial fluid microRNAs as potential biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis 
Introduction
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), endogenous small noncoding RNAs regulating the activities of target mRNAs and cellular processes, are present in human plasma in a stable form. In this study, we investigated whether miRNAs are also stably present in synovial fluids and whether plasma and synovial fluid miRNAs could be biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods
We measured concentrations of miR-16, miR-132, miR-146a, miR-155 and miR-223 in synovial fluid from patients with RA and OA, and those in plasma from RA, OA and healthy controls (HCs) by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Furthermore, miRNAs in the conditioned medium of synovial tissues, monolayer fibroblast-like synoviocytes, and mononuclear cells were examined. Correlations between miRNAs and biomarkers or disease activities of RA were statistically examined.
Results
Synovial fluid miRNAs were present and as stable as plasma miRNAs for storage at -20°C and freeze-thawing from -20°C to 4°C. In RA and OA, synovial fluid concentrations of miR-16, miR-132, miR-146a, and miR-223 were significantly lower than their plasma concentrations, and there were no correlation between plasma and synovial fluid miRNAs. Interestingly, synovial tissues, fibroblast-like synoviocytes, and mononuclear cells secreted miRNAs in distinct patterns. The expression patterns of miRNAs in synovial fluid of OA were similar to miRNAs secreted by synovial tissues. Synovial fluid miRNAs of RA were likely to originate from synovial tissues and infiltrating cells. Plasma miR-132 of HC was significantly higher than that of RA or OA with high diagnosability. Synovial fluid concentrations of miR-16, miR-146a miR-155 and miR-223 of RA were significantly higher than those of OA. Plasma miRNAs or ratio of synovial fluid miRNAs to plasma miRNAs, including miR-16 and miR-146a, significantly correlated with tender joint counts and 28-joint Disease Activity Score.
Conclusions
Plasma miRNAs had distinct patterns from synovial fluid miRNAs, which appeared to originate from synovial tissue. Plasma miR-132 well differentiated HCs from patients with RA or OA, while synovial fluid miRNAs differentiated RA and OA. Furthermore, plasma miRNAs correlated with the disease activities of RA. Thus, synovial fluid and plasma miRNAs have potential as diagnostic biomarkers for RA and OA and as a tool for the analysis of their pathogenesis.
doi:10.1186/ar3013
PMCID: PMC2911870  PMID: 20470394
21.  Resistin in rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue, synovial fluid and serum 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;66(4):458-463.
Background
Resistin is a newly identified adipocytokine which has demonstrated links between obesity and insulin resistance in rodents. In humans, proinflammatory properties of resistin are superior to its insulin resistance‐inducing effects.
Objectives
To assess resistin expression in synovial tissues, serum and synovial fluid from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and spondylarthropathies (SpA), and to study its relationship with inflammatory status and rheumatoid arthritis disease activity.
Methods
Resistin expression and localisation in synovial tissue was determined by immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy. Serum and synovial fluid resistin, leptin, interleukin (IL)1β, IL6, IL8, tumour necrosis factor α, and monocyte chemoattractant protein‐1 levels were measured. The clinical activity of patients with rheumatoid arthritis was assessed according to the 28 joint count Disease Activity Score (DAS28).
Results
Resistin was detected in the synovium in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Staining in the sublining layer was more intensive in patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared with those with osteoarthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, macrophages (CD68), B lymphocytes (CD20) and plasma cells (CD138) but not T lymphocytes (CD3) showed colocalisation with resistin. Synovial fluid resistin was higher in patients with rheumatoid arthritis than in those with SpA or osteoarthritis (both p<0.001). In patients with rheumatoid arthritis and SpA, serum resistin levels were higher than those with osteoarthritis (p<0.01). Increased serum resistin in patients with rheumatoid arthritis correlated with both CRP (r = 0.53, p<0.02), and DAS28 (r = 0.44, p<0.05), but not with selected (adipo) cytokines.
Conclusion
The upregulated resistin at local sites of inflammation and the link between serum resistin, inflammation and disease activity suggest a role for resistin in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.054734
PMCID: PMC1856051  PMID: 17040961
22.  Epithelial neutrophil activating peptide-78: a novel chemotactic cytokine for neutrophils in arthritis. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1994;94(3):1012-1018.
We and others have shown that cells obtained from inflamed joints of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients produce interleukin-8, a potent chemotactic cytokine for neutrophils (PMNs). However, IL-8 accounted for only 40% of the chemotactic activity for PMNs found in these synovial fluids. Currently, we have examined the production of the novel PMN chemotactic cytokine, epithelial neutrophil activating peptide-78 (ENA-78), using peripheral blood, synovial fluid, and synovial tissue from 70 arthritic patients. RA ENA-78 levels were greater in RA synovial fluid (239 +/- 63 ng/ml) compared with synovial fluid from other forms of arthritis (130 +/- 118 ng/ml) or osteoarthritis (2.6 +/- 1.8 ng/ml) (P < 0.05). RA peripheral blood ENA-78 levels (70 +/- 26 ng/ml) were greater than normal peripheral blood levels (0.12 +/- 0.04 ng/ml) (P < 0.05). Anti-ENA-78 antibodies neutralized 42 +/- 9% (mean +/- SE) of the chemotactic activity for PMNs found in RA synovial fluids. Isolated RA synovial tissue fibroblasts in vitro constitutively produced significant levels of ENA-78, and this production was further augmented when stimulated with tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). In addition RA and osteoarthritis synovial tissue fibroblasts as well as RA synovial tissue macrophages were found to constitutively produce ENA-78. RA synovial fluid mononuclear cells spontaneously produced ENA-78, which was augmented in the presence of lipopolysaccharide. Immunohistochemical localization of ENA-78 from the synovial tissue of patients with arthritis or normal subjects showed that the predominant cellular source of this chemokine was synovial lining cells, followed by macrophages, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts. Synovial tissue macrophages and fibroblasts were more ENA-78 immunopositive in RA than in normal synovial tissue (P < 0.05). These results, which are the first demonstration of ENA-78 in a human disease state, suggest that ENA-78 may play an important role in the recruitment of PMNs in the milieu of the inflamed joint of RA patients.
Images
PMCID: PMC295150  PMID: 8083342
23.  Nuclear factor-κB activity in T cells from patients with rheumatic diseases: A preliminary report 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1998;57(12):738-741.
OBJECTIVE—The NF-κB/Rel family of transcription factors regulates the expression of many genes involved in the immune or inflammatory response at the transcriptional level. The aim of this study was to determine whether distinctive patterns of NF-kB activation are seen in different forms of joint disease.
METHODS—The DNA binding activity of these nucleoproteins was examined in purified synovial and peripheral T cells from patients with various chronic rheumatic diseases (12: four with rheumatoid arthritis; five with spondyloarthropathies; and three with osteoarthritis).
RESULTS—Electrophoretic mobility shift assays disclosed two specific complexes bound to a NF-κB specific 32P-labelled oligonucleotide in nucleoproteins extracted from purified T cells isolated from synovial fluid and peripheral blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The complexes consisted of p50/p50 homodimers and p50/p65 heterodimers. Increased NF-kB binding to DNA in synovial T cells was observed relative to peripheral T cells. In non-rheumatoid arthritis, binding of NF-κB in synovial T cells was exclusively mediated by p50/p50 homodimers.
CONCLUSION—Overall, the results suggest that NF-κB may play a central part in the activation of infiltrating T cells in chronic rheumatoid arthritis. The activation of this nuclear factor is qualitatively different in rheumatoid synovial T cells to that in other forms of non-rheumatoid arthritis (for example, osteoarthritis, spondyloarthropathies).

 Keywords: NF-κB; synovial T cells; rheumatoid arthritis; spondyloarthropathy; osteoarthritis
PMCID: PMC1752520  PMID: 10070274
24.  NETs are a source of citrullinated autoantigens and stimulate inflammatory responses in rheumatoid arthritis 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(178):178ra40.
The early events leading to the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remain unclear but formation of autoantibodies to citrullinated antigens (ACPA) is considered a key pathogenic phenomenon. Neutrophils isolated from patients with various autoimmune diseases display enhanced extracellular trap formation (NETs), a phenomenon that externalizes autoantigens and immunostimulatory molecules. We investigated whether aberrant NETosis occurs in RA, determined its triggers and examined its deleterious inflammatory consequences. Enhanced NETosis was observed in circulating and synovial fluid RA neutrophils, compared to neutrophils from healthy controls and from patients with osteoarthritis. Further, netting neutrophils infiltrated RA synovial tissue, rheumatoid nodules and skin. NETosis correlated with ACPA presence and levels and with systemic inflammatory markers. RA sera and immunoglobulin fractions from RA patients with high levels of ACPA and/or rheumatoid factor significantly enhanced NETosis, and the NETs induced by these autoantibodies displayed distinct protein content. During NETosis, neutrophils externalized citrullinated autoantigens implicated in RA pathogenesis, whereas anti-citrullinated vimentin antibodies potently induced NET formation. The inflammatory cytokines IL-17A and TNF-α induced NETosis in RA neutrophils. In turn, NETs significantly augmented inflammatory responses in RA and OA synovial fibroblasts, including induction of IL-6, IL-8, chemokines and adhesion molecules. These observations implicate accelerated NETosis in RA pathogenesis, through externalization of citrullinated autoantigens and immunostimulatory molecules that may promote aberrant adaptive and innate immune responses in the joint and in the periphery, and perpetuate pathogenic mechanisms in this disease.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3005580
PMCID: PMC3727661  PMID: 23536012
25.  Mycoplasma fermentans, but not M penetrans, detected by PCR assays in synovium from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic disorders. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1996;49(10):824-828.
AIM/BACKGROUND: Mycoplasmas, especially Mycoplasma fermentans, were suggested more than 20 years ago as a possible cause of rheumatoid arthritis but this hypothesis was never substantiated. In view of the superior sensitivity of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay over culture, the aim was to use this method to seek M fermentans and M penetrans in synovial samples from patients with various arthritides. METHODS: Synovial fluid samples (n = 154) and synovial biopsy specimens (n = 20) from 133 patients with various rheumatic disorders were stored at -80 degrees C for between one and 40 months. Aliquots (500 microliters) of the synovial fluid samples were centrifuged and the deposit, and also the synovial biopsy specimens (approximately 1 g) were placed in lysis buffer with proteinase K for DNA extraction. The DNA was tested by using a semi-nested PCR assay for M fermentans and a single-round PCR for M penetrans. RESULTS: M fermentans was detected in the joints of eight (21%) of 38 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, two (20%) of 10 patients with spondyloarthropathy with peripheral arthritis, one (20%) of five patients with psoriatic arthritis, and four (13%) of 31 patients with unclassified arthritis. M fermentans was not found in the joints of the seven patients with reactive arthritis, the 29 with osteoarthritis or post-traumatic hydrarthrosis, the nine with gouty arthritis, nor the four with chronic juvenile arthritis. M penetrans was not detected in any sample. CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that the presence of M fermentans in the joint is associated with inflammatory rheumatic disorders of unknown cause, including rheumatoid arthritis. However, whether this organism triggers or perpetuates disease of behaves as a passenger remains conjectural.
PMCID: PMC500777  PMID: 8943749

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