Regulation of the ERK pathway is intimately involved in determining whether TCR stimulation is productive or induces anergy. T cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have increased ERK responsiveness which may be relevant for disease pathogenesis. Inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α did not reproduce the TCR hypersensitivity typical for RA in T cells from healthy individuals. In contrast, priming with the homeostatic cytokines IL-7 and IL-15 amplified ERK phosphorylation to TCR stimulation twofold to threefold. The underlying mechanism involved a priming of the SOS-dependent amplification loop of RAS activation. The sensitization of the TCR signaling pathway has downstream consequences, such as increased proliferation and preferential Th1 differentiation. Importantly, priming with IL-7 or IL-15 enabled T cell responses to autoantigens associated with RA. Production of homeostatic cytokines is induced in lymphopenic conditions, which have been shown to predispose for autoimmunity and which appear to be present in the preclinical stages of RA. We propose that homeostatic cytokines, possibly induced by lymphopenia, decrease the signaling threshold for TCR activation and are thereby partly responsible for autoimmunity in RA.
With increasing age, the ability of the immune system to protect against new antigenic challenges or to control chronic infections erodes. Decline in thymic function and cumulating antigenic experiences of acute and chronic infections threaten T cell homeostasis, but insufficiently explain the failing immune competence and the increased susceptibility for autoimmunity. Alterations in signaling pathways in the aging T cells account for many of the age-related defects. Signaling threshold calibrations seen with aging frequently built on mechanisms that are operational in T cell development and T cell differentiation or are adaptations to the changing environment in the aging host. Age-related changes in transcription of receptors and signaling molecules shift the balance towards inhibitory pathways, most dominantly seen in CD8 T cells and to a lesser degree in CD4 T cells. Prominent examples are the expression of negative regulatory receptors of the CD28 and the TNF receptor superfamilies as well the expression of various cytoplasmic and nuclear dual-specific phosphatases.
Aging; signaling; T cell receptor; JAK STAT pathway; dual-specific phosphatase
The aged immune system, typically hyporesponsive to infection and vaccination, can be hyperresponsive in the context of inflammatory pathology. Here we review current work examining the mechanisms behind the amplified inflammatory profile of aged adaptive immunity, and the reciprocal relationship between chronic inflammation and immune aging. Aged hematopoietic stem cells are driven to differentiate following accumulated DNA damage, thus depleting the stem cell pool and increasing the number of damaged effector cells in the circulation. Chronic DNA damage responses in lymphocytes as well as senescent cells of other lineages initiate the production of inflammatory mediators. In addition, aged lymphocytes become less reliant on specific antigen for stimulation and more prone to activation through innate receptors. When these lymphocytes are exposed to inflammatory signals produced by senescent tissues, the bias toward inflammation exacerbates destruction without necessarily improving immunity.
Immune aging is best known for its immune defects that increase susceptibility to infections and reduce adaptive immune responses to vaccination. In parallel, the aged immune system is prone to autoimmune responses and many autoimmune diseases increase in incidence with age or are even preferentially encountered in the elderly. Why an immune system that suboptimally responds to exogenous antigen fails to maintain tolerance to self-antigens appears to be perplexing. In this review, we will discuss age-associated deviations in the immune repertoire and the regulation of signaling pathways that may shed light on this conundrum.
immunosenescence; autoimmunity; inflammation; pathogenesis; DNA damage response; T cell receptor signaling; rheumatoid arthritis; giant cell arteritis
Immunosenescence; aging; autoimmunity; rheumatoid arthritis; telomere
CD8 T cells stimulated with a suboptimal dose of anti-CD3 antibodies (100 pg/ml) in the presence of IL-15 retain a naïve phenotype with expression of CD45RA, CD28, CD27 and CCR7 but acquire new functions and differentiate into immunosuppressive T cells. CD8+CCR7+ Tregs express FOXP3 and prevent CD4 T cells from responding to T-cell receptor stimulation and entering the cell cycle. Naïve CD4 T cells are more susceptible to inhibition than memory cells. The suppressive activity of CD8+CCR7+ Tregs is not mediated by IL-10, TGF-β, CTLA-4, CCL4 or adenosine and relies on interference with very early steps of the TCR signaling cascade. Specifically, CD8+CCR7+ Tregs prevent TCR-induced phosphorylation of ZAP70 and dampen the rise of intracellular calcium in CD4 T cells. The inducibility of CD8+CCR7+ Tregs is correlated to the age of the individual with peripheral blood lymphocytes of donors older than 60 years yielding low numbers of FOXP3low CD8 Treg cells. Loss of CD8+CCR7+ Tregs in the elderly host may be of relevance in the aging immune system as immunosenescence is associated with a state of chronic smoldering inflammation.
The ability to mount adaptive immune responses to vaccinations and viral infections declines with increasing age. To identify mechanisms leading to immunosenescence, primary CD4 T cell responses were examined in 60- to 75-year-old individuals lacking overt functional defects. Transcriptome analysis indicated a selective defect in zinc homeostasis. CD4 T cell activation was associated with zinc influx via the zinc transporter Zip6, leading to increased free cytoplasmic zinc and activation of negative feedback loops, including the induction of zinc-binding metallothioneins. In young adults, activation-induced cytoplasmic zinc concentrations declined after 2 days to below prestimulation levels. In contrast, activated naïve CD4 T cells from older individuals failed to downregulate cytoplasmic zinc, resulting in excessive induction of metallothioneins. Activation-induced metallothioneins regulated the redox state in activated T cells and accounted for an increased proliferation of old CD4 T cells, suggesting that regulation of T cell zinc homeostasis functions as a compensatory mechanism to preserve the replicative potential of naïve CD4 T cells with age.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by premature immune aging with accumulation of degenerate T cells deficient for CD28. Gene expression profiling of CD4+CD28− and CD4+CD28+ T cells to discover disease-promoting activities of CD28− T cells identified expression of CD70 as a most striking difference. Hence, CD70 was significantly more expressed in CD4 T cells from RA patients compared to age-matched controls (P<0.006). The underlying mechanism was a failure to repress CD70 expression after activation-dependent induction. This defect in RA was not related to differential promoter demethylation. CD70 on bystander CD4+CD28− T cells functioned by lowering the threshold for T-cell activation; admixture of CD4+CD28− T cells augmented TCR-induced responses of autologous naïve CD4+CD28+ T cells, particularly of low avidity T cells. The data support a model where CD70 expressed on T cells causes degeneracy in T-cell responses and undermines tolerance mechanisms that normally control T-cell autoreactivity.
T cells; Rheumatoid Arthritis; Costimulation; Gene Regulation; Tolerance/Suppression/Anergy
The treatment armamentarium in rheumatic inflammatory diseases has drastically increased in the last years. Earlier uses of conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), along with the arrival of newer therapies including the so-called “biologic” agents, have provided better long-term outcomes for patients suffering from these illnesses. Biologic agents have shown efficacy for several diseases and failed in others. Due to a high prevalence of some of these diseases in the elderly population, this age group may also benefit, although treatment will have to be tailored to its special needs. In this mini review, we will discuss the use of these medications in rheumatic diseases with a significant prevalence in the elderly, their proven and potential uses, and the considerations that need to be taken into account when using them in this population.
Biologic agents; autoimmune rheumatic disease; B cells; T cells; elderly
With increasing age, the competence of the immune system to fight infections and tumors declines. Age-dependent changes have been mostly described for human CD8 T cells, raising the question of whether the response patterns for CD4 T cells are different. Gene expression arrays of memory CD4 T cells yielded a similar age-induced fingerprint as has been described for CD8 T cells. In cross-sectional studies, the phenotypic changes were not qualitatively different for CD4 and CD8 T cells, but occurred much more frequently in CD8 T cells. Homeostatic stability partially explained this lesser age sensitivity of CD4 T cells. With aging, naïve and central memory CD8 T cells were lost at the expense of phenotypically distinct CD8 effector T cells, while effector CD4 T cells did not accumulate. However, phenotypic shifts on central memory T cells were also more pronounced in CD8 T cells. This distinct stability in cell surface marker expression can be reproduced in vitro. The data show that CD8 T cells are age sensitive by at least two partially independent mechanisms: fragile homeostatic control and gene expression instability in a large set of regulatory cell surface molecules.
immunosenescence; aging; T-cell subset; T-cell homeostasis; CD4; CD8; killer immunoglobulin-like receptors; CD85
T-cell activation and differentiation depend on the signal strength received by the T-cell receptor and on signals provided by co-stimulatory molecules. The most prominent co-stimulatory molecule is CD28, which controls the activation of naïve and memory T cells by antigen presented on professional antigen-presenting cells. Blocking of the CD28-CD80/86 pathway has been an appealing strategy for inducing tolerance in autoimmune diseases where the disease-inducing autoantigens are not known. Although CD28 has maintained its unique position, the past decade has witnessed the recognition that a large number of regulatory molecules on T cells must be stimulated to generate a fully protective immune response. These regulatory receptors differ in their preferential expression on T-cell subsets, in the ligands that they recognize, and in the signaling pathways that they trigger. They have in common the fact that they provide information on the cellular environment in which the T-cell response occurs. By intercepting these signals, we may be able to influence disease-relevant T-cell responses in autoimmune diseases while potentially minimizing broad immunosuppression.
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) have age-inappropriate telomeric shortening suggesting premature senescence and possible restriction of proliferative capacity. In response to hematopoietic growth factors RA-derived CD34+ HPC expanded significantly less than age-matched controls. Cell surface receptors for stem cell factor (SCF), Flt 3-Ligand, IL-3 and IL-6 were intact in RA HPC but the cells had lower transcript levels of cell cycle genes, compatible with insufficient signal strength in the ERK pathway. Cytokine-induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2 was diminished in RA HPC whereas phosphorylated STAT3 and STAT5 molecules accumulated to a similar extent as in controls. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that the membrane-proximal colocalization of K-Ras and B-Raf were less efficient in RA-derived CD34+ cells. Thus, hyporesponsiveness of RA HPC to growth factors results from dampening of the ERK signaling pathways; with a defect localized in the very early steps of the ERK signaling cascade.
rheumatoid arthritis; hematopoietic progenitor cells; CD34; ERK signaling; STAT signaling
The ability of the human immune system to respond to vaccination declines with age. We identified an age-associated defect in T cell receptor (TCR)-induced ERK phosphorylation in naïve CD4+ T cells (P<0.0001) while other signals, such as ZAP70 and PLC-γ1 phosphorylation were not impaired. The defective ERK signaling was caused by the dual specific phosphatase (DUSP) 6 whose protein levels increased with age (r = 0.68, P < 0.0001) due to a decline in repression by miR-181a (r = −0.59, P < 0.0001). Reconstitution of miR-181a lowered DUSP6 levels in naïve CD4+ T cells in elderly individuals. DUSP6 repression with miR-181a or specific siRNA, and DUSP6 inhibition with the allosteric inhibitor (E)-2-benzylidene-3-(cyclohexylamino)-2,3-dihydro-1H-inden-1-one improved CD4+ T cell responses as seen by increased expression of activation markers, improved proliferation and supported preferential TH1 differentiation. DUSP6 is a potential intervention target for restoring T cell responses in the elderly, which may augment the effectiveness of vaccination.
Activation of CD4+ T cells is governed by interplay between stimulatory and inhibitory receptors; predominance of stimulatory signals favors autoimmune reactions. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, expression of the critical costimulatory molecule, CD28, is frequently lost. Instead, CD4+CD28null T cells express killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) with a preferential expression of the stimulatory receptor, CD158j. The frequency of CD4+CD28null T cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) correlates with the risk for more severe disease. Moreover, the KIR2DS2 gene, which encodes for CD158j, is a genetic risk factor for rheumatoid vasculitis. CD158j signals through the adaptor molecule, KARAP/DAP12, to positively regulate cytotoxic activity in NK cells. However, the majority of CD4+CD28null T cell clones lacked the expression of KARAP/DAP12. Despite the absence of KARAP/DAP12, CD158j was functional and augmented interferon-γ production after T cell receptor stimulation. Cross-linking of CD158j resulted in selective phosphorylation of c-Jun NH2-terminal protein kinase (JNK) and its upstream kinase, MKK4 that led to the expression of ATF-2 and c-Jun, all in the absence of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 phosphorylation. Mutation of the lysine residue within the transmembrane domain of CD158j abolished JNK activation, suggesting that an alternate adaptor molecule was being used. CD4+CD28null T cells expressed DAP10 and inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, which acts downstream of DAP10, inhibited JNK activation; however, no interaction of DAP10 with CD158j could be detected. Our data suggest that CD158j in T cells functions as a costimulatory molecule through the JNK pathway independent of KARAP/DAP12 and DAP10. Costimulation by CD158j may contribute to the autoreactivity of CD4+CD28null T cells in RA.
autoimmunity; pathogenesis; rheumatoid arthritis; costimulation; killer immunoglobulin-like
Aging is associated with a variety of changes to immune responsiveness. Reduced protection against infection, reduced responses to vaccination and increased risk of autoimmunity are all hallmarks of advanced age. Here we consider how changes in the expression of regulatory receptors on the T cell surface contribute to altered immunity during aging.
Aging; T cell costimulation; inhibitory receptors; T cell regulation; NK receptors
Susceptibility for giant cell arteritis increases with chronological age, in parallel with age-related restructuring of the immune system and age-induced remodeling of the vascular wall. Immunosenescence results in shrinkage of the naïve T-cell pool, contraction of T-cell diversity, and impairment of innate immunity. Aging of immunocompetent cells forces the host to take alternative routes for protective immunity and confers risk for pathogenic immunity that causes chronic inflammatory tissue damage. Dwindling immunocompetence is particularly relevant as the aging host is forced to cope with an ever growing infectious load. Immunosenescence coincides with vascular aging during which the arterial wall undergoes dramatic structural changes and medium and large arteries lose their pliability and elasticity. On the molecular level, elastic fibers deteriorate and matrix proteins accumulate biochemical modifications. Thus, the aging process impacts the two major biologic systems that liaise to promote giant cell arteritis; the immune system and the vessel wall niche.
Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a granulomatous vasculitis of the aorta and its branches that causes blindness, stroke and aortic aneurysm. CD4 T-cells are key pathogenic regulators, instructed by vessel wall dendritic cells (DC) to differentiate into vasculitic T cells. The unique pathways driving this DC-T-cell interaction are incompletely understood but may provide novel therapeutic targets for a disease in which the only established therapy is chronic treatment with high doses of corticosteroids.
Methods and Results
Immunohistochemical and gene expression analysis of GCA-affected temporal arteries revealed abundant expression of the NOTCH receptor and its ligands Jagged1 and Delta1. Cleavage of the NOTCH intracellular domain (NICD) in wall-infiltrating T cells indicated ongoing NOTCH pathway activation in large vessel vasculitis. NOTCH activation did not occur in small vessel vasculitis affecting branches of the vasa vasorum tree. We devised two strategies to block NOTCH pathway activation; γ-secretase inhibitor treatment, preventing nuclear translocation of the NICD, and competing for receptor-ligand interactions through excess soluble ligand, Jagged1-Fc. In humanized mice carrying human arteries NOTCH pathway disruption had strong immunosuppressive effects, inhibiting T-cell activation in the early and established phase of vascular inflammation. NOTCH inhibition was particularly effective in downregulating Th17 responses, but also markedly suppressed Th1 responses.
Blocking NOTCH signaling depleted T cells from the vascular infiltrates, implicating NOTCH-NOTCH ligand interactions in regulating T-cell retention and survival in vessel wall inflammation. Modulating the NOTCH signaling cascade emerges as a promising new strategy for immunosuppressive therapy of large vessel vasculitis.
Arteries; Inflammation; T-cell; NOTCH; Costimulation; IFN-γ; IL-17
Purpose of review
Granuloma formation in giant cell arteritis (GCA) emphasizes the role of the adaptive immunity and highlights the role of antigen-specific T cells. Recent data demonstrate that at least two separate lineages of CD4 T-cells participate in vascular inflammation, providing an important clue that multiple disease instigators may initiate pathogenic immunity.
IFN-γ-producing Th1 cells and IL-17-producing Th17 cells have been implicated in GCA. Patients with biopsy-positive GCA underwent two consecutive temporal artery biopsies, one prior to therapy and one while on corticosteroids. In untreated patients, Th1 and Th17 cells co-existed in the vascular lesions. Following therapy, Th17 cells were essentially lost, whereas Th1 cells persisted almost unaffected. In the peripheral blood of untreated patients Th17 frequencies were increased eightfold, but normalized with therapy. Blood Th1 cells were doubled in frequency, independent of therapy. Corticosteroids functioned by selectively suppressing IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-23-releasing antigen-presenting cells (APC), disrupting induction of Th17 cells.
At least two distinct CD4 T-cell subsets promote vascular inflammation in GCA. In early disease, APCs promote differentiation of Th17 as well as Th1 cells. Chronic disease is characterized by persistent Th1-inducing signals, independent of IL-17-mediated inflammation. More than one disease instigator may trigger APCs to induce multiple T cell lineages. Cocktails of therapies will be needed for appropriate disease control.
IL-17; IFN-γ; T cell; Antigen-presenting cell
Zinc enhances TCR signaling in part by inhibiting Shp-1 recruitment to the TCR synapse.
Zinc is a trace element that is essential for innate and adaptive immune responses. In addition to being a structural element of many proteins, zinc also functions as a neurotransmitter and an intracellular messenger. Temporal or spatial changes in bioavailable zinc may influence the activity of several enzymes, including kinases and phosphatases. We provide evidence that zinc functions as an ionic signaling molecule after T cell activation. Cytoplasmic zinc concentrations increased within 1 min after T cell receptor (TCR) triggering, in particular in the subsynaptic compartment. The increase depended on the extracellular zinc concentrations and was inhibited by silencing zinc transporter Zip6. Increased zinc influx reduced the recruitment of SHP-1 to the TCR activation complex, augmented ZAP70 phosphorylation and sustained calcium influx. By calibrating TCR activation thresholds, increased extracellular zinc bioavailability facilitated the induction of T cell proliferative responses to suboptimal stimuli.
In the autoimmune syndrome rheumatoid arthritis (RA), T-cells and T-cell precursors have age-inappropriate shortening of telomeres and accumulate DNA double strand breaks. Whether damaged DNA elicits DNA repair activity and how this affects T-cell function and survival is unknown. Here, we report that naïve and resting T cells from RA patients are susceptible to undergo apoptosis. In such T cells, unrepaired DNA stimulates a p53-ATM-independent pathway involving the nonhomologous-end-joining protein DNA-PKcs. Upregulation of DNA-PKcs transcription, protein expression and phosphorylation in RA T cells co-occurs with diminished expression of the Ku70/80 heterodimer, limiting DNA repair capacity. Inhibition of DNA-PKcs kinase activity or gene silencing of DNA-PKcs protects RA T-cells from apoptosis. DNA-PKcs induces T-cell death by activating the JNK pathway and upregulating the apoptogenic BH3-only proteins Bim and Bmf. In essence, in rheumatoid arthritis, the DNA-PKcs-JNK-Bim/Bmf axis transmits genotoxic stress into shortened survival of naïve resting T cells, imposing chronic proliferative turnover of the immune system and premature immunosenescence. Therapeutic blockade of the DNA-PK-dependent cell-death machinery may rejuvenate the immune system in RA.
Apoptosis; DNA damage; DNA-PKcs; Rheumatoid Arthritis; T cell
A defining feature of the eukaryotic genome is the presence of linear chromosomes. This arrangement, however, poses several challenges with regard to chromosomal replication and maintenance. To prevent the loss of coding sequences and to suppress gross chromosomal rearrangements, linear chromosomes are capped by repetitive nucleoprotein structures, called telomeres. Each cell division results in a progressive shortening of telomeres that, below a certain threshold, promotes genome instability, senescence, and apoptosis. Telomeric erosion, maintenance, and repair take center stage in determining cell fate. Cells of the immune system are under enormous proliferative demand, stressing telomeric intactness. Lymphocytes are capable of upregulating telomerase, an enzyme that can elongate telomeric sequences and, thus, prolong cellular lifespan. Therefore, telomere dynamics are critical in preserving immune function and have become a focus for studies of immunosenescence and autoimmunity. In this review, we describe the role of telomeric nucleoproteins in shaping telomere architecture and in suppressing DNA damage responses. We summarize new insights into the regulation of telomerase activity, hereditary disorders associated with telomere dysfunction, the role of telomere loss in immune aging, and the impact of telomere dysfunction in chronic inflammatory disease.
Telomeres; Aging; Immunosenescence
In the vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, T cells may destabilize the tissue structure through direct cell-injurious effector functions. T cells transmit environmental signals, such as recognition of antigen, into cellular responses through regulated phosphorylation of cytoplasmic proteins; with the Src family kinase Lck in critical membrane-proximal position of the T-cell receptor (TCR) signaling cascade. The balance between protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation defines the signal transduction threshold and determines appropriate T-cell responses.
We have examined whether abnormal calibration of intracellular signaling pathways renders ACS patients susceptible to disproportionate T-cell responses.
Methods and Results
Intracellular signaling cascades were quantified in CD4 T cells from ACS patients and control individuals after stimulation with MHC II-superantigen complexes. ACS T cells mobilized more intracellular calcium and accumulated higher levels of phosphotyrosine than control T cells. Proximal steps in TCR signaling, such as recruitment of ZAP-70 and clustering of TCR complexes in the immune synapse, were abnormally enhanced in ACS T cells. Acceleration of the signaling cascade derived from a proximal defect in ACS T cells, which failed to phosphorylate Lck atTyr505, extending activation of the Src kinase. Abnormalities in TCR signaling did not correlate with systemic inflammation as measured by C-reactive protein.
An intrinsic abnormality in the signaling machinery of ACS T cells resulting in the accumulation of active Lck lowers the TCR threshold and renders lymphocytes hyperreactive and capable of unwanted immune responses.
calcium signaling; protein tyrosine kinase; signaling pathways; T cell
In giant cell arteritis (GCA), vasculitic damage of the aorta and its branches is combined with a syndrome of intense systemic inflammation. Therapeutically, glucocorticoids (GC) remain the golden standard as they promptly and effectively suppress acute manifestations; however, they fail to eradicate vessel wall infiltrates. The effects of glucocorticoids on the systemic and vascular components of GCA are not understood.
Methods and Results
The immunoprofile of untreated and GC-treated GCA was examined in peripheral blood and temporal artery biopsies with protein quantification assays, flow cytometry, quantitative real-time PCR, and immunohistochemistry. Plasma IFN-γ and IL-17 and frequencies of IFN-γ-producing and IL-17-producing T cells were markedly elevated prior to therapy. GC treatment suppressed the Th17 but not the Th1 arm in the blood and the vascular lesions. Analysis of monocytes/macrophages in the circulation and in temporal arteries revealed GC-mediated suppression of Th17-promoting cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-23), but sparing of Th1-promoting cytokines (IL-12). In human artery-SCID mouse chimeras, in which patient-derived T cells cause inflammation of engrafted human temporal arteries, glucocorticoids were similarly selective in inhibiting Th17 cells and leaving Th1 cells unaffected.
Two pathogenic pathways mediated by Th17 and Th1 cells contribute to the systemic and vascular manifestations of GCA. IL-17-producing Th17 cells are sensitive to GC-mediated suppression, but IFN-γ-producing Th1 responses persist in treated patients. Targeting steroid-resistant Th1 responses will be necessary to resolve chronic smoldering vasculitis. Monitoring Th17 and Th1 frequencies can aid in assessing disease activity in GCA.
giant cell arteritis; glucocorticoids; Th1; Th17
In the autoimmune syndrome rheumatoid arthritis (RA), T cells and T-cell precursors have age-inappropriate shortening of telomeres and accumulate deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) double strand breaks. Whether damaged DNA elicits DNA repair activity and how this affects T-cell function and survival is unknown. Here, we report that naïve and resting T cells from RA patients are susceptible to undergo apoptosis. In such T cells, unrepaired DNA stimulates a p53-ataxia telangiectasia mutated-independent pathway involving the non-homologous-end-joining protein DNA-protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs). Upregulation of DNA-PKcs transcription, protein expression and phosphorylation in RA T cells co-occurs with diminished expression of the Ku70/80 heterodimer, limiting DNA repair capacity. Inhibition of DNA-PKcs kinase activity or gene silencing of DNA-PKcs protects RA T cells from apoptosis. DNA-PKcs induces T-cell death by activating the JNK pathway and upregulating the apoptogenic BH3-only proteins Bim and Bmf. In essence, in RA, the DNA-PKcs-JNK-Bim/Bmf axis transmits genotoxic stress into shortened survival of naïve resting T cells, imposing chronic proliferative turnover of the immune system and premature immunosenescence. Therapeutic blockade of the DNA-PK-dependent cell-death machinery may rejuvenate the immune system in RA.
apoptosis; DNA damage; DNA-PKcs; rheumatoid arthritis; T-cell
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is recognized to be an autoimmune disease that causes preclinical systemic abnormalities and eventually leads to synovial inflammation and destruction of the joint architecture. Recently identified genetic risk factors and novel insights from animal models of spontaneous arthritis have lent support to the concept that thymic selection of an autoreactive T-cell repertoire is an important risk factor for this disease. With advancing age, defects in the homeostatic control of the T-cell pool and in the setting of signaling thresholds lead to the accumulation of pro-inflammatory T-effector cell populations and loss of tolerance to neo-antigens, such as citrullinated peptides. As the breakdown of tolerance to modified self-antigens can precede synovitis by decades, repair of homeostatic defects may open a unique window of opportunity for preventive interventions in RA. The end result of RA, destruction of cartilage and bone, appears to be driven by cytokine- and cell contact-induced activation of synoviocytes and monocytic cells, some of which differentiate into tissue-destructive osteoclasts. Targeting mediators involved in this process has greatly improved the management of this chronic inflammatory syndrome.