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1.  What can rheumatologists learn from translational cancer therapy? 
It is well established that an intimate connection exists between inflammation and neoplasia. Indeed, particular chronic infections and autoimmune processes giving rise to prolonged site-specific inflammation are known to increase the probability of the development of specific cancers. Molecular characterisation of these processes has revealed profound similarities in the specific molecules involved in persistence of inflammation and in both the primary induction of neoplastic processes and in specification of the preferred anatomic sites of metastatic spread. The therapeutic importance of these findings is underscored by the remarkable success in the treatment of autoimmune pathology using medications initially developed for use in oncology and this arena is one of considerable therapeutic promise for rheumatologists.
doi:10.1186/ar4203
PMCID: PMC3672806  PMID: 23638860
2.  Identification of the Tyrosine-Protein Phosphatase Non-Receptor Type 2 as a Rheumatoid Arthritis Susceptibility Locus in Europeans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66456.
Objectives
Genome-wide association studies have facilitated the identification of over 30 susceptibility loci for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, evidence for a number of potential susceptibility genes have not so far reached genome-wide significance in studies of Caucasian RA.
Methods
A cohort of 4286 RA patients from across Europe and 5642 population matched controls were genotyped for 25 SNPs, then combined in a meta-analysis with previously published data.
Results
Significant evidence of association was detected for nine SNPs within the European samples. When meta-analysed with previously published data, 21 SNPs were associated with RA susceptibility. Although SNPs in the PTPN2 gene were previously reported to be associated with RA in both Japanese and European populations, we show genome-wide evidence for a different SNP within this gene associated with RA susceptibility in an independent European population (rs7234029, P = 4.4×10−9).
Conclusions
This study provides further genome-wide evidence for the association of the PTPN2 locus (encoding the T cell protein tyrosine phosphastase) with Caucasian RA susceptibility. This finding adds to the growing evidence for PTPN2 being a pan-autoimmune susceptibility gene.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066456
PMCID: PMC3688762  PMID: 23840476
3.  Synovial DKK1 expression is regulated by local glucocorticoid metabolism in inflammatory arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(5):R226.
Introduction
Inflammatory arthritis is associated with increased bone resorption and suppressed bone formation. The Wnt antagonist dickkopf-1 (DKK1) is secreted by synovial fibroblasts in response to inflammation and this protein has been proposed to be a master regulator of bone remodelling in inflammatory arthritis. Local glucocorticoid production is also significantly increased during joint inflammation. Therefore, we investigated how locally derived glucocorticoids and inflammatory cytokines regulate DKK1 synthesis in synovial fibroblasts during inflammatory arthritis.
Methods
We examined expression and regulation of DKK1 in primary cultures of human synovial fibroblasts isolated from patients with inflammatory arthritis. The effect of TNFα, IL-1β and glucocorticoids on DKK1 mRNA and protein expression was examined by real-time PCR and ELISA. The ability of inflammatory cytokine-induced expression of the glucocorticoid-activating enzyme 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) to sensitise fibroblasts to endogenous glucocorticoids was explored. Global expression of Wnt signalling and target genes in response to TNFα and glucocorticoids was assessed using a custom array.
Results
DKK1 expression in human synovial fibroblasts was directly regulated by glucocorticoids but not proinflammatory cytokines. Glucocorticoids, but not TNFα, regulated expression of multiple Wnt agonists and antagonists in favour of inhibition of Wnt signalling. However, TNFα and IL-1β indirectly stimulated DKK1 production through increased expression of 11β-HSD1.
Conclusions
These results demonstrate that in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts, DKK1 expression is directly regulated by glucocorticoids rather than TNFα. Consequently, the links between synovial inflammation, altered Wnt signalling and bone remodelling are not direct but are dependent on local activation of endogenous glucocorticoids.
doi:10.1186/ar4065
PMCID: PMC3580537  PMID: 23079210
4.  Stromal cells differentially regulate neutrophil and lymphocyte recruitment through the endothelium 
Immunology  2010;131(3):357-370.
Stromal fibroblasts modify the initial recruitment of leucocytes by endothelial cells (EC), but their effects on subsequent transendothelial migration remain unclear. Here, EC and dermal or synovial fibroblasts were cultured on opposite surfaces of 3-μm pore filters and incorporated in static or flow-based migration assays. Fibroblasts had little effect on tumour necrosis factor-α-induced transendothelial migration of neutrophils, but tended to increase the efficiency of migration away from the endothelium. Surprisingly, similar close contact between EC and fibroblasts strongly reduced lymphocyte migration in static assays, and nearly abolished stable lymphocyte adhesion from flow. Fibroblasts did not alter endothelial surface expression of adhesion molecules or messenger RNA for chemokines. Inhibition of attachment did not occur when EC-fibroblast contact was restricted by using 0·4-μm pore filters, but under these conditions pre-treatment with heparinase partially inhibited adhesion. In the 3-μm pore co-cultures, inhibition of metalloproteinase activity partially recovered lymphocyte adhesion, but addition of CXCL12 (SDF-1α) to the endothelial surface did not. Hence, the ability of EC to present activating chemokines for lymphocytes may have been enzymatically inhibited by direct contact with fibroblasts. To avoid contact, we cultured EC and fibroblasts on separate 3-μm pore filters one above the other. Here, fibroblasts promoted the transendothelial migration of lymphocytes. Fibroblasts generate CXCL12, but blockade of CXCL12 receptor had no effect on lymphocyte migration. While stromal cells can provide signal(s) promoting leucocyte migration away from the sub-endothelial space, direct cell contact (which might occur in damaged tissue) may cause disruption of chemokine signalling, specifically inhibiting lymphocyte rather than neutrophil recruitment.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2567.2010.03307.x
PMCID: PMC2992690  PMID: 20518822
endothelial cells; fibroblasts; lymphocytes; migration; neutrophils
5.  Targeting Stromal Cells in Chronic Inflammation 
Discovery medicine  2007;7(37):20-26.
Summary
Why chronic inflammatory reactions persist in specific sites, such as rheumatoid arthritis in the joints, remains a mystery. Current models of inflammation have concentrated upon the responses of lymphocytes such as B and T cells to specific antigens, and have attempted, often unsuccessfully, to address the causative agent. However recent studies have shown that stromal cells such as macrophages, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts play important roles in the switch that turns a spontaneously resolving acute inflammatory response within a tissue into chronic and persistent disease. Therapeutic manipulation of the stromal microenvironment has been particularly effective in treating cancer and is likely to provide novel therapies to achieve improved control of chronic inflammatory disease.
PMCID: PMC3160478  PMID: 17343801
6.  Altered Expression of MicroRNA-203 in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts and Its Role in Fibroblast Activation 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(2):373-381.
Objective
MicroRNA (miRNA) are recognized as important regulators of a variety of fundamental biologic processes. Previously, we described increased expression of miR-155 and miR-146a in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and showed a repressive effect of miR-155 on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression in RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFs). The present study was undertaken to examine alterations in expression of miR-203 in RASFs and analyze its role in fibroblast activation.
Methods
Differentially expressed miRNA in RASFs versus osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASFs) were identified by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)–based screening of 260 individual miRNA. Transfection of miR-203 precursor was used to analyze the function of miR-203 in RASFs. Levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and MMPs were measured by real-time PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RASFs were stimulated with IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and 5-azacytidine (5-azaC). Activity of IκB kinase 2 was inhibited with SC-514.
Results
Expression of miR-203 was higher in RASFs than in OASFs or fibroblasts from healthy donors. Levels of miR-203 did not change upon stimulation with IL-1β, TNFα, or LPS; however, DNA demethylation with 5-azaC increased the expression of miR-203. Enforced expression of miR-203 led to significantly increased levels of MMP-1 and IL-6. Induction of IL-6 by miR-203 overexpression was inhibited by blocking of the NF-κB pathway. Basal expression levels of IL-6 correlated with basal expression levels of miR-203.
Conclusion
The current results demonstrate methylation-dependent regulation of miR-203 expression in RASFs. Importantly, they also show that elevated levels of miR-203 lead to increased secretion of MMP-1 and IL-6 via the NF-κB pathway and thereby contribute to the activated phenotype of synovial fibroblasts in RA.
doi:10.1002/art.30115
PMCID: PMC3116142  PMID: 21279994
7.  The role of chemokines in leucocyte-stromal interactions in rheumatoid arthritis 
New dimensions in our understanding of immune cell trafficking in health and disease have been opened by the discovery of chemokines and their receptors. This family of chemo-attractant cytokines performs essential roles in the recruitment and subsequent positioning of leucocyte subsets within tissue microenvironments. Investigation of chemokine networks offers a novel approach to understand the mechanisms by which inflammatory cells persist in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), where evidence is mounting that the inappropriate temporal and spatial expression of chemokines and/or their receptors may impair the resolution of leucocyte infiltrates. The recognition that stromal cells such as fibroblasts, as active components of tissue specific microenvironments, are able to determine the type and persistence of inflammatory infiltrates has opened new vistas in research. Stromal cells are active contributors to cytokine and inflammatory chemokine networks which result in immune cell recruitment and activation. However an intriguing role of stromal cells has been demonstrated in the inappropriate expression of constitutive, housekeeping chemokines, which contribute to the persistence of inflammation by actively blocking its resolution.
PMCID: PMC3145134  PMID: 17981742
Chemokine; chemokine receptor; Stromal; Fibroblast; Rheumatoid arthritis; Inflammation; Microenvironment; Review
8.  The role of leukocyte-stromal interactions in chronic inflammatory joint disease 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating, chronic, persistent inflammatory disease that is characterised by painful and swollen joints. The aetiology of RA is unknown, however whereas past research has concentrated on the role of immune or inflammatory infiltrating cells in inflammation, it is becoming clear that stromal cells play a critical part in regulating the quality and duration of an inflammatory response. In this review we assess the role of fibroblasts within the inflamed synovium in modulating immune responses; in particular we examine the role of stromal cells in the switch from resolving to persistent inflammation as is found in the rheumatoid synovium.
doi:10.1016/j.jbspin.2004.03.009
PMCID: PMC3122102  PMID: 15681242
Rheumatoid arthritis; Cytokines; Chemokines; Synovitis; Inflammation
9.  A stromal address code defined by fibroblasts 
Trends in immunology  2005;26(3):150-156.
To navigate into and within tissues, leukocytes require guidance cues that enable them to recognize which tissues to enter and which to avoid. Such cues are partly provided at the time of extravasation from blood by an endothelial address code on the luminal surface of the vascular endothelium. Here, we review the evidence that fibroblasts help define an additional stromal address code that directs leukocyte behaviour within tissues. We examine how this stromal code regulates site-specific leukocyte accumulation, differentiation and survival in a variety of physiological stromal niches, and how the aberrant expression of components of this code in the wrong tissue at the wrong time contributes to the persistence of chronic inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1016/j.it.2004.11.014
PMCID: PMC3121558  PMID: 15745857
10.  Targeting the stromal microenvironment in chronic inflammation 
Current opinion in pharmacology  2006;6(4):393-400.
A characteristic feature of chronic inflammatory reactions is their persistence and predilection for certain sites. The molecular basis for such tissue tropism (as, for example, seen with metastatic spread) has until recently remained obscure, but recent studies have strongly implicated tissue-resident, stromal cells, such as macrophages, endothelial cells and fibroblasts. These cell types make attractive therapeutic targets as they help define the three-dimensional structure of tissues and are key orchestrators of the inflammatory infiltrate. Most current anti-inflammatory therapies target immune cells in an attempt to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory mediators; however, an equally important target is the active induction of anti-inflammatory mediators involved in the resolution of inflammation. Recent work suggests that stromal cells are an important source of these mediators. Targeting of multiple signals may be required to inhibit tissue damage associated with inflammatory disease. Cells of the monocyte lineage are present as tissue-resident cells and interact closely with other stromal populations. These cells form an ideal target for modulation of the inflammatory environment as, in some cases, they appear to induce tissue repair. Therapeutic manipulation of the stromal microenvironment has been particularly effective in treating cancer and is likely to provide a novel method to achieve improved control of chronic inflammatory disease.
doi:10.1016/j.coph.2006.03.007
PMCID: PMC3119430  PMID: 16682252
11.  Differential Survival of Leukocyte Subsets Mediated by Synovial, Bone Marrow, and Skin Fibroblasts 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2006;54(7):2096-2108.
Objective
Synovial fibroblasts share a number of phenotype markers with fibroblasts derived from bone marrow. In this study we investigated the role of matched fibroblasts obtained from 3 different sources (bone marrow, synovium, and skin) to test the hypothesis that synovial fibroblasts share similarities with bone marrow–derived fibroblasts in terms of their ability to support survival of T cells and neutrophils.
Methods
Matched synovial, bone marrow, and skin fibroblasts were established from 8 different patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were undergoing knee or hip surgery. Resting or activated fibroblasts were cocultured with either CD4 T cells or neutrophils, and the degree of leukocyte survival, apoptosis, and proliferation were measured.
Results
Fibroblasts derived from all 3 sites supported increased survival of CD4 T cells, mediated principally by interferon-β. However, synovial and bone marrow fibroblasts shared an enhanced site-specific ability to maintain CD4 T cell survival in the absence of proliferation, an effect that was independent of fibroblast activation or proliferation but required direct T cell–fibroblast cell contact. In contrast, fibroblast-mediated neutrophil survival was less efficient, being independent of the site of origin of the fibroblast but dependent on prior fibroblast activation, and mediated solely by soluble factors, principally granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor.
Conclusion
These results suggest an important functional role for fibroblasts in the differential accumulation of leukocyte subsets in a variety of tissue microenvironments. The findings also provide a potential explanation for site-specific differences in the pattern of T cell and neutrophil accumulation observed in chronic inflammatory diseases.
doi:10.1002/art.21930
PMCID: PMC3119431  PMID: 16802344
12.  A Novel Mechanism of Neutrophil Recruitment in a Coculture Model of the Rheumatoid Synovium 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2005;52(11):3460-3469.
Objective
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is classically thought of as a Th1, T lymphocyte–driven disease of the adaptive immune system. However, cells of the innate immune system, including neutrophils, are prevalent within the diseased joint, and accumulate in large numbers. This study was undertaken to determine whether cells of the rheumatoid stromal microenvironment could establish an inflammatory environment in which endothelial cells are conditioned in a disease-specific manner to support neutrophil recruitment.
Methods
Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (ECs) and fibroblasts isolated from the synovium or skin of RA patients were established in coculture on opposite sides of porous transwell filters. After 24 hours of EC conditioning, the membranes were incorporated into a parallel-plate, flow-based adhesion assay and levels of neutrophil adhesion to ECs were measured.
Results
ECs cocultured with synovial, but not skin, fibroblasts could recruit neutrophils in a manner that was dependent on the number of fibroblasts. Antibody blockade of P-selectin or E-selectin reduced neutrophil adhesion, and an antibody against CD18 (the β2 integrin) abolished adhesion. Blockade of CXCR2, but not CXCR1, also greatly inhibited neutrophil recruitment. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) was detectable in coculture supernatants, and both IL-6 and neutrophil adhesion were reduced in a dose-dependent manner by hydrocortisone added to cocultures. Antibody blockade of IL-6 also effectively abolished neutrophil adhesion.
Conclusion
Synovial fibroblasts from the rheumatoid joint play an important role in regulating the recruitment of inflammatory leukocytes during active disease. This process may depend on a previously unsuspected route of IL-6–mediated crosstalk between fibroblasts and endothelial cells.
doi:10.1002/art.21394
PMCID: PMC3119436  PMID: 16255036
13.  Galectin 3 Induces a Distinctive Pattern of Cytokine and Chemokine Production in Rheumatoid Synovial Fibroblasts via Selective Signaling Pathways 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(6):1604-1614.
Objective
High expression of galectin 3 at sites of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) suggests that galectin 3 plays a role in RA pathogenesis. Previous studies have demonstrated the effects of galectins on immune cells, such as lymphocytes and macrophages. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that galectin 3 induces proinflammatory effects in RA by modulating the pattern of cytokine and chemokine production in synovial fibroblasts.
Methods
Matched samples of RA synovial and skin fibroblasts were pretreated with galectin 3 or tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), and the levels of a panel of cytokines, chemokines, and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) were determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and multiplex assays. Specific inhibitors were used to dissect signaling pathways, which were confirmed by Western blotting and NF-κB activation assay.
Results
Galectin 3 induced secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6), granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor, CXCL8, and MMP-3 in both synovial and skin fibroblasts. By contrast, galectin 3–induced secretion of TNFα, CCL2, CCL3, and CCL5 was significantly greater in synovial fibroblasts than in skin fibroblasts. TNFα blockade ruled out autocrine TNFα-stimulated induction of chemokines. The MAPKs p38, JNK, and ERK were necessary for IL-6 production, but phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) was required for selective CCL5 induction. NF-κB activation was required for production of both IL-6 and CCL5.
Conclusion
Our findings indicate that galectin 3 promotes proinflammatory cytokine secretion by tissue fibroblasts. However, galectin 3 induces the production of mononuclear cell–recruiting chemokines uniquely from synovial fibroblasts, but not matched skin fibroblasts, via a PI 3-kinase signaling pathway. These data provide further evidence of the role of synovial fibroblasts in regulating the pattern and persistence of the inflammatory infiltrate in RA and suggest a new and important functional consequence of the observed high expression of galectin 3 in the rheumatoid synovium.
doi:10.1002/art.24574
PMCID: PMC3116228  PMID: 19479862
14.  Utility of ultrasound joint counts in the prediction of rheumatoid arthritis in patients with very early synovitis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;70(3):500-507.
Objectives
Early therapy improves outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is therefore important to improve predictive algorithms for RA in early disease. This study evaluated musculoskeletal ultrasound, a sensitive tool for the detection of synovitis and erosions, as a predictor of outcome in very early synovitis.
Methods
58 patients with clinically apparent synovitis of at least one joint and symptom duration of ≤3 months underwent clinical, laboratory, radiographic and 38 joint ultrasound assessments and were followed prospectively for 18 months, determining outcome by 1987 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and 2010 ACR/European League Against Rheumatism criteria. Sensitivity and specificity for 1987 RA criteria were determined for ultrasound variables and logistic regression models were then fitted to evaluate predictive ability over and above the Leiden rule.
Results
16 patients resolved, 13 developed non-RA persistent disease and 29 developed RA by 1987 criteria. Ultrasound demonstrated subclinical wrist, elbow, knee, ankle and metatarsophalangeal joint involvement in patients developing RA. Large joint and proximal interphalangeal joint ultrasound variables had poor predictive ability, whereas ultrasound erosions lacked specificity. Regression analysis demonstrated that greyscale wrist and metacarpophalangeal joint involvement, and power Doppler involvement of metatarsophalangeal joints provided independently predictive data. Global ultrasound counts were inferior to minimal power Doppler counts, which significantly improved area under the curve values from 0.905 to 0.962 combined with the Leiden rule.
Conclusion
In a longitudinal study, extended ultrasound joint evaluation significantly increased detection of joint involvement in all regions and outcome groups. Greyscale and power Doppler scanning of metacarpophalangeal joints, wrists and metatarsophalangeal joints provides the optimum minimal ultrasound data to improve on clinical predictive models for RA.
doi:10.1136/ard.2010.131573
PMCID: PMC3033529  PMID: 21115552
15.  Rheumatoid synovial fluid interleukin-17-producing CD4 T cells have abundant tumor necrosis factor-alpha co-expression, but little interleukin-22 and interleukin-23R expression 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(5):R184.
Introduction
Th17 cells have been implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of this study was to systematically analyse the phenotype, cytokine profile and frequency of interleukin-17 (IL-17) producing CD4-positive T cells in mononuclear cells isolated from peripheral blood, synovial fluid and synovial tissue of RA patients with established disease, and to correlate cell frequencies with disease activity.
Methods
Flow cytometry was used to analyse the phenotype and cytokine production of mononuclear cells isolated from peripheral blood (PBMC) (n = 44), synovial fluid (SFMC) (n = 14) and synovium (SVMC) (n = 10) of RA patients and PBMC of healthy controls (n = 13).
Results
The frequency of IL-17-producing CD4 T cells was elevated in RA SFMC compared with RA PBMC (P = 0.04). However, the frequency of this population in RA SVMC was comparable to that in paired RA PBMC. The percentage of IL-17-producing CD4 T cells coexpressing tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) was significantly increased in SFMC (P = 0.0068). The frequency of IFNγ-producing CD4 T cells was also significantly higher in SFMC than paired PBMC (P = 0.042). The majority of IL-17-producing CD4 T cells coexpressed IFNγ. IL-17-producing CD4 T cells in RA PBMC and SFMC exhibited very little IL-22 or IL-23R coexpression.
Conclusions
These findings demonstrate a modest enrichment of IL-17-producing CD4 T cells in RA SFMC compared to PBMC. Th17 cells in SFMC produce more TNFα than their PBMC counterparts, but are not a significant source of IL-22 and do not express IL-23R. However, the percentage of CD4 T cells which produce IL-17 in the rheumatoid joint is low, suggesting that other cells may be alternative sources of IL-17 within the joints of RA patients.
doi:10.1186/ar3152
PMCID: PMC2991017  PMID: 20929536
16.  Linking Power Doppler Ultrasound to the Presence of Th17 Cells in the Rheumatoid Arthritis Joint 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12516.
Background
Power Doppler ultrasound (PDUS) is increasingly used to assess synovitis in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Prior studies have shown correlations between PDUS scores and vessel counts, but relationships with T cell immunopathology have not been described.
Methodology/Principal Findings
PBMC were isolated from healthy controls (HC) or RA patients and stimulated ex vivo with PMA and ionomycin for 3 hours in the presence of Golgistop. Paired synovial fluid (SF) or synovial tissue (ST) were analysed where available. Intracellular expression of IL-17, IFNγ, and TNFα by CD4+ T cells was determined by flow cytometry. Synovial blood flow was evaluated by PDUS signal at the knees, wrists and metacarpophalangeal joints of RA patients. Serum, SF and fibroblast culture supernatant levels of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) were measured by ELISA. The frequency of IL17+IFNγ-CD4+ T cells (Th17 cells) was significantly elevated in peripheral blood (PB) from RA patients vs. HC (median (IQR) 0.5 (0.28–1.59)% vs. 0.32 (0.21–0.54)%, p = 0.005). Th17 cells were further enriched (mean 6.6-fold increase) in RA SF relative to RA PB. Patients with active disease had a higher percentage of IL-17+ T cells in ST than patients in remission, suggesting a possible role for Th17 cells in active synovitis in RA. Indeed, the percentage of Th17 cells, but not Th1, in SF positively correlated with CRP (r = 0.51, p = 0.04) and local PDUS-defined synovitis (r = 0.61, p = 0.002). Furthermore, patients with high levels of IL-17+CD4+ T cells in SF had increased levels of the angiogenic factor VEGF-A in SF. Finally, IL-17, but not IFNγ, increased VEGF-A production by RA synovial fibroblasts in vitro.
Conclusions/Significance
Our data demonstrate a link between the presence of pro-inflammatory Th17 cells in SF and local PDUS scores, and offer a novel immunological explanation for the observation that rapid joint damage progression occurs in patients with persistent positive PDUS signal.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012516
PMCID: PMC2931706  PMID: 20824142
17.  Monocytes/macrophages express chemokine receptor CCR9 in rheumatoid arthritis and CCL25 stimulates their differentiation 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R161.
Introduction
Monocytes/macrophages accumulate in the rheumatoid (RA) synovium where they play a central role in inflammation and joint destruction. Identification of molecules involved in their accumulation and differentiation is important to inform therapeutic strategies. This study investigated the expression and function of chemokine receptor CCR9 in the peripheral blood (PB) and synovium of RA, non-RA patients and healthy volunteers.
Methods
CCR9 expression on PB monocytes/macrophages was analysed by flow cytometry and in synovium by immunofluorescence. Chemokine receptor CCR9 mRNA expression was examined in RA and non-RA synovium, monocytes/macrophages from PB and synovial fluid (SF) of RA patients and PB of healthy donors using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Monocyte differentiation and chemotaxis to chemokine ligand 25 (CCL25)/TECK were used to study CCR9 function.
Results
CCR9 was expressed by PB monocytes/macrophages in RA and healthy donors, and increased in RA. In RA and non-RA synovia, CCR9 co-localised with cluster of differentiation 14+ (CD14+) and cluster of differentiation 68+ (CD68+) macrophages, and was more abundant in RA synovium. CCR9 mRNA was detected in the synovia of all RA patients and in some non-RA controls, and monocytes/macrophages from PB and SF of RA and healthy controls. CCL25 was detected in RA and non-RA synovia where it co-localised with CD14+ and CD68+ cells. Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) increased CCR9 expression on human acute monocytic leukemia cell line THP-1 monocytic cells. CCL25 induced a stronger monocyte differentiation in RA compared to healthy donors. CCL25 induced significant chemotaxis of PB monocytes but not consistently among individuals.
Conclusions
CCR9 expression by monocytes is increased in RA. CCL25 may be involved in the differentiation of monocytes to macrophages particularly in RA.
doi:10.1186/ar3120
PMCID: PMC2945064  PMID: 20738854
18.  The relationship between the presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies and clinical phenotype in very early rheumatoid arthritis 
Background
Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies are highly specific for RA, but are not detectable in all RA patients. The aim of this study was to establish whether the clinical phenotypes of anti-CCP positive and negative disease are distinct at the earliest clinically apparent phase of disease.
Methods
Patients were recruited from the Birmingham early inflammatory arthritis clinic. Participants were included in the current study if they presented within 3 months of symptom onset and fulfilled 1987 ACR criteria for RA at some point during an 18 month follow-up. Data were collected on demographic variables, joint symptoms and tender (n = 68) and swollen (n = 66) joint counts. CRP, ESR, rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP2 status were measured.
Results
92 patients were included (48 anti-CCP positive). The anti-CCP positive and negative groups were comparable in terms of demographic variables, inflammatory markers, joint counts and 1987 ACR classification criteria, except that more anti-CCP positive patients were rheumatoid factor positive (83.3% vs. 11.4%, p < 0.01). There was no significant difference in the pattern of joint involvement, except for an increased prevalence of knee joint swelling in anti-CCP positive patients (42.9% vs. 22.2%, p = 0.03).
Conclusions
Patients with and without anti-CCP antibodies present in a similar way, even within three months of clinically apparent disease that eventually develops into RA.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-187
PMCID: PMC2936346  PMID: 20731815
19.  Investigation of potential non-HLA rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility loci in a European cohort increases the evidence for nine markers 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(8):1548-1553.
Background
Genetic factors have a substantial role in determining development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and are likely to account for 50–60% of disease susceptibility. Genome-wide association studies have identified non-human leucocyte antigen RA susceptibility loci which associate with RA with low-to-moderate risk.
Objectives
To investigate recently identified RA susceptibility markers using cohorts from six European countries, and perform a meta-analysis including previously published results.
Methods
3311 DNA samples were collected from patients from six countries (UK, Germany, France, Greece, Sweden and Denmark). Genotype data or DNA samples for 3709 controls were collected from four countries (not Sweden or Denmark). Eighteen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped using Sequenom MassArray technology. Samples with a >95% success rate and only those SNPs with a genotype success rate of >95% were included in the analysis. Scandinavian patient data were pooled and previously published Swedish control data were accessed as a comparison group. Meta-analysis was used to combine results from this study with all previously published data.
Results
After quality control, 3209 patients and 3692 controls were included in the study. Eight markers (ie, rs1160542 (AFF3), rs1678542 (KIF5A), rs2476601 (PTPN22), rs3087243 (CTLA4), rs4810485 (CD40), rs5029937 (6q23), rs10760130 (TRAF1/C5) and rs7574865 (STAT4)) were significantly associated with RA by meta-analysis. All 18 markers were associated with RA when previously published studies were incorporated in the analysis. Data from this study increased the significance for association with RA and nine markers.
Conclusions
In a large European RA cohort further evidence for the association of 18 markers with RA development has been obtained.
doi:10.1136/ard.2009.121020
PMCID: PMC2938898  PMID: 20498205
20.  Prolonged, granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor-dependent, neutrophil survival following rheumatoid synovial fibroblast activation by IL-17 and TNFalpha 
Introduction
A surprising feature of the inflammatory infiltrate in rheumatoid arthritis is the accumulation of neutrophils within synovial fluid and at the pannus cartilage boundary. Recent findings suggest that a distinct subset of IL-17-secreting T-helper cells (TH17 cells) plays a key role in connecting the adaptive and innate arms of the immune response and in regulating neutrophil homeostasis. We therefore tested the hypothesis that synovial fibroblasts bridge the biological responses that connect TH17 cells to neutrophils by producing neutrophil survival factors following their activation with IL-17.
Methods
IL-17-expressing cells in the rheumatoid synovium, and IL-17-expressing cells in the peripheral blood, and synovial fluid were examined by confocal microscopy and flow cytometry, respectively. Peripheral blood neutrophils were cocultured either with rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) or with conditioned medium from RASF that had been pre-exposed to recombinant human IL-17, TNFα or a combination of the two cytokines. Neutrophils were harvested and stained with the vital mitochondrial dye 3,3'-dihexyloxacarbocyanine iodide before being enumerated by flow cytometry.
Results
TH17-expressing CD4+ cells were found to accumulate within rheumatoid synovial tissue and in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fluid. RASF treated with IL-17 and TNFα (RASFIL-17/TNF) effectively doubled the functional lifespan of neutrophils in coculture. This was entirely due to soluble factors secreted from the fibroblasts. Specific depletion of granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor from RASFIL-17/TNF-conditioned medium demonstrated that this cytokine accounted for approximately one-half of the neutrophil survival activity. Inhibition of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and NF-κB pathways showed a requirement for both signalling pathways in RASFIL-17/TNF-mediated neutrophil rescue.
Conclusion
The increased number of neutrophils with an extended lifespan found in the rheumatoid synovial microenvironment is partly accounted for by IL-17 and TNFα activation of synovial fibroblasts. TH17-expressing T cells within the rheumatoid synovium are likely to contribute significantly to this effect.
doi:10.1186/ar2406
PMCID: PMC2453767  PMID: 18433499
21.  Hepatotoxicity associated with sulfasalazine in inflammatory arthritis: A case series from a local surveillance of serious adverse events 
Background
Spontaneous reporting systems for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are handicapped by under-reporting and limited detail on individual cases. We report an investigation from a local surveillance for serious adverse drug reactions associated with disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs that was triggered by the occurrence of liver failure in two of our patients.
Methods
Serious ADR reports have been solicited from local clinicians by regular postcards over the past seven years. Patients', who had hepatotoxicity on sulfasalazine and met a definition of a serious ADR, were identified. Two clinicians reviewed structured case reports and assessed causality by consensus and by using a causality assessment instrument. The likely frequency of hepatotoxicity with sulfasalazine was estimated by making a series of conservative assumptions.
Results
Ten cases were identified: eight occurred during surveillance. Eight patients were hospitalised, two in hepatic failure – one died after a liver transplant. All but one event occurred within 6 weeks of treatment. Seven patients had a skin rash, three eosinophilia and one interstitial nephritis. Five patients were of Black British of African or Caribbean descent. Liver enzymes showed a hepatocellular pattern in four cases and a mixed pattern in six. Drug-related hepatotoxicity was judged probable or highly probable in 8 patients. The likely frequency of serious hepatotoxicity with sulfasalazine was estimated at 0.4% of treated patients.
Conclusion
Serious hepatotoxicity associated with sulfasalazine appears to be under-appreciated and intensive monitoring and vigilance in the first 6 weeks of treatment is especially important.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-48
PMCID: PMC2329632  PMID: 18405372
22.  Differential expression, function and response to inflammatory stimuli of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 in human fibroblasts: a mechanism for tissue-specific regulation of inflammation 
Stromal cells such as fibroblasts play an important role in defining tissue-specific responses during the resolution of inflammation. We hypothesized that this involves tissue-specific regulation of glucocorticoids, mediated via differential regulation of the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1). Expression, activity and function of 11β-HSD1 was assessed in matched fibroblasts derived from various tissues (synovium, bone marrow and skin) obtained from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. 11β-HSD1 was expressed in fibroblasts from all tissues but mRNA levels and enzyme activity were higher in synovial fibroblasts (2-fold and 13-fold higher mRNA levels in dermal and synovial fibroblasts, respectively, relative to bone marrow). Expression and activity of the enzyme increased in all fibroblasts following treatment with tumour necrosis factor-α or IL-1β (bone marrow: 8-fold and 37-fold, respectively, compared to vehicle; dermal fibroblasts: 4-fold and 14-fold; synovial fibroblasts: 7-fold and 31-fold; all P < 0.01 compared with vehicle). Treatment with IL-4 or interferon-γ was without effect, and there was no difference in 11β-HSD1 expression between fibroblasts (from any site) obtained from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. In the presence of 100 nmol/l cortisone, IL-6 production – a characteristic feature of synovial derived fibroblasts – was significantly reduced in synovial but not dermal or bone marrow fibroblasts. This was prevented by co-treatment with an 11β-HSD inhibitor, emphasizing the potential for autocrine activation of glucocorticoids in synovial fibroblasts. These data indicate that differences in fibroblast-derived glucocorticoid production (via the enzyme 11β-HSD1) between cells from distinct anatomical locations may play a key role in the predeliction of certain tissues to develop persistent inflammation.
doi:10.1186/ar1993
PMCID: PMC1779419  PMID: 16846535
23.  Stromal cells differentially regulate neutrophil and lymphocyte recruitment through the endothelium 
Immunology  2010;131(3):357-370.
Stromal fibroblasts modify the initial recruitment of leucocytes by endothelial cells (EC), but their effects on subsequent transendothelial migration remain unclear. Here, EC and dermal or synovial fibroblasts were cultured on opposite surfaces of 3-μm pore filters and incorporated in static or flow-based migration assays. Fibroblasts had little effect on tumour necrosis factor-α-induced transendothelial migration of neutrophils, but tended to increase the efficiency of migration away from the endothelium. Surprisingly, similar close contact between EC and fibroblasts strongly reduced lymphocyte migration in static assays, and nearly abolished stable lymphocyte adhesion from flow. Fibroblasts did not alter endothelial surface expression of adhesion molecules or messenger RNA for chemokines. Inhibition of attachment did not occur when EC-fibroblast contact was restricted by using 0·4-μm pore filters, but under these conditions pre-treatment with heparinase partially inhibited adhesion. In the 3-μm pore co-cultures, inhibition of metalloproteinase activity partially recovered lymphocyte adhesion, but addition of CXCL12 (SDF-1α) to the endothelial surface did not. Hence, the ability of EC to present activating chemokines for lymphocytes may have been enzymatically inhibited by direct contact with fibroblasts. To avoid contact, we cultured EC and fibroblasts on separate 3-μm pore filters one above the other. Here, fibroblasts promoted the transendothelial migration of lymphocytes. Fibroblasts generate CXCL12, but blockade of CXCL12 receptor had no effect on lymphocyte migration. While stromal cells can provide signal(s) promoting leucocyte migration away from the sub-endothelial space, direct cell contact (which might occur in damaged tissue) may cause disruption of chemokine signalling, specifically inhibiting lymphocyte rather than neutrophil recruitment.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2567.2010.03307.x
PMCID: PMC2992690  PMID: 20518822
endothelial cells; fibroblasts; lymphocytes; migration; neutrophils
24.  Fibroblasts from different sites may promote or inhibit recruitment of flowing lymphocytes by endothelial cells 
European Journal of Immunology  2009;39(1):113-125.
We examined the hypothesis that stromal fibroblasts modulate the ability of endothelial cells (EC) to recruit lymphocytes in a site-specific manner. PBL were perfused over HUVEC that had been cultured with fibroblasts isolated from the inflamed synovium or the skin of patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, or from normal synovium, with or without exposure to the inflammatory cytokines TNF-α+IFN-γ. Fibroblasts from inflamed synovium, but no others, caused unstimulated HUVEC to bind flowing lymphocytes. This adhesion was supported by α4β1-VCAM-1 interaction and stabilised by activation of PBL through CXCR4–CXCL12. Antibody neutralisation of IL-6 during co-culture effectively abolished the ability of EC to bind lymphocytes. Cytokine-stimulated EC supported high levels of lymphocyte adhesion, through the presentation of VCAM-1, E-selectin and chemokine(s) acting through CXCR3. Interestingly, co-culture with dermal fibroblasts caused a marked reduction in cytokine-induced adhesion, while synovial fibroblasts had variable effects depending on their source. In the dermal co-cultures, neutralisation of IL-6 or TGF-β caused partial recovery of cytokine-induced lymphocyte adhesion; this was complete when both were neutralised. Exogenous IL-6 was also found to inhibit response to TNF-α+IFN-γ. Normal stromal fibroblasts appear to regulate the cytokine-sensitivity of vascular endothelium, while fibroblasts associated with chronic inflammation bypass this and develop a directly inflammatory phenotype. Actions of IL-6 might be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, depending on the local milieu.
doi:10.1002/eji.200838232
PMCID: PMC2821685  PMID: 19130557
Adhesion; Endothelial cells; Fibroblasts; Lymphocytes
25.  Cytokine mRNA profiling identifies B cells as a major source of RANKL in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;70(11):2022-2028.
Objectives
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a complex cytokine network drives chronic inflammation and joint destruction. So far, few attempts have been made to identify the cellular sources of individual cytokines systematically. Therefore, the primary objective of this study was systematically to assess the cytokine messenger RNA expression profiles in the five largest cell populations in the synovial fluid and peripheral blood of RA patients. To reflect the in vivo situation as closely as possible, the cells were neither cultured nor stimulated ex vivo.
Methods
Inflammatory cells from 12 RA patients were sorted into CD4 and CD8 T cells, B cells, macrophages and neutrophils. mRNA expression for 41 cytokines was determined by real-time PCR using microfluidic cards. Receptor activator nuclear factor kappa B ligand (RANKL) (TNFSF11) expression by B cells was further confirmed by flow cytometry and by immunofluorescence staining of frozen sections of synovial tissue from patients with RA.
Results
The detection of cytokines characteristic for T cells and myeloid cells in the expected populations validated this methodology. Beyond the expected cytokine patterns, novel observations were made. Striking among these was the high expression of mRNA for RANKL in B cells from synovial fluid. This observation was validated at the protein level in synovial tissue and fluid.
Conclusions
RANKL, the key cytokine driving bone destruction by osteoclast activation, is produced by synovial B cells in RA. This observation is of importance for our understanding of the role of B cells in RA and their therapeutic targeting.
doi:10.1136/ard.2011.153312
PMCID: PMC3184241  PMID: 21742639

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