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1.  Polymorphisms in peptidylarginine deiminase associate with rheumatoid arthritis in diverse Asian populations: evidence from MyEIRA study and meta-analysis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R250.
The majority of our knowledge regarding disease-related mechanisms of uncontrolled citrullination and anti-citrullinated protein antibody development in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was investigated in Caucasian populations. However, peptidylarginine deiminase (PADI) type 4 gene polymorphisms are associated with RA in East Asian populations and weak or no association was found in Caucasian populations. This study explores the association between the PADI4 polymorphisms and RA risk in a multiethnic population residing in South East Asia with the goal of elucidating generalizability of association in non-Caucasian populations.
A total of 320 SNPs from the PADI locus (including PADI1, PADI2, PADI3, PADI4 and PADI6 genes) were genotyped in 1,238 RA cases and 1,571 control subjects from the Malaysian Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis (MyEIRA) case-control study. Additionally, we conducted meta-analysis of our data together with the previously published studies of RA from East Asian populations.
The overall odds ratio (ORoverall) for the PADI4 (rs2240340) allelic model was 1.11 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.00 to 1.23, P = 0.04) and for the genotypic model was 1.20 (95% CI = 1.01 to 1.44, P = 0.04). Haplotype analysis for four selected PADI4 SNPs revealed a significant association of one with susceptibility (P = 0.001) and of another with a protective effect (P = 0.02). The RA susceptibility was further confirmed when combined meta-analysis was performed using these data together with data from five previously published studies from Asia comprising 5,192 RA cases and 4,317 control subjects (ORoverall = 1.23 (95% CI = 1.16 to 1.31, Pheterogeneity = 0.08) and 1.31 (95% CI = 1.20 to 1.44, Pheterogeneity = 0.32) in allele and genotype-based models, respectively). In addition, we also detected a novel association of PADI2 genetic variant rs1005753 with RA (ORoverall = 0.87 (95% CI = 0.77 to 0.99)).
Our study demonstrates an association between PADI4 and RA in the multiethnic population from South East Asia and suggests additional association with a PADI2 gene. The study thus provides further support for the notion that polymorphisms in genes for enzymes responsible for citrullination contribute to RA development in multiple populations of Asian descent.
PMCID: PMC3674620  PMID: 23164236
2.  Validation of a multiplex chip-based assay for the detection of autoantibodies against citrullinated peptides 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(5):R201.
Autoantibodies directed against citrullinated proteins/peptides (ACPAs) are highly specific and predictive for the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Different subgroups of RA patients, which have different prognoses and may require different treatments, are characterized by different autoantibody profiles. The objective of this study was to develop a microarray for the detection of multiple RA-associated autoantibodies, initially focusing on responses against citrullinated epitopes on candidate autoantigens in RA.
The microarray is based on Phadia's ImmunoCAP ISAC system, with which reactivity to more than 100 antigens can be analyzed simultaneously, by using minute serum volumes (< 10 μl). Twelve citrullinated peptides, and the corresponding native arginine-containing control peptides, were immobilized in an arrayed fashion onto a chemically modified glass slide, allowing a three-dimensional layer with high binding capacity. The assay was optimized concerning serum dilution and glass surface, whereas each individual antigen was optimized concerning coupling chemistry, antigen concentration, and selection of spotting buffer. The performance of each peptide in the ImmunoCAP ISAC system was compared with the performance in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). Serum from 927 RA patients and 461 healthy controls from a matched case-control study were applied onto reaction sites on glass slides, followed by fluorescent-labeled anti-human immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody. Fluorescence intensities were detected with a laser scanner, and the results analyzed by using image-analysis software.
Strong correlations between the ImmunoCAP ISAC system and ELISA results were found for individual citrullinated peptides (Spearman ρ typically between 0.75 and 0.90). Reactivity of RA sera with the peptides was seen mainly in the anticyclic citrullinated peptide 2 (CCP2)-positive subset, but some additional reactivity with single citrullinated peptides was seen in the anti-CCP2-negative subset. Adjusting for reactivity against arginine-containing control peptides did not uniformly change the diagnostic performance for antibodies against the individual citrullinated peptides.
The multiplexed array, for detection of autoantibodies against multiple citrullinated epitopes on candidate RA autoantigens, will be of benefit in studies of RA pathogenesis, diagnosis, and potentially as a guide to individualized treatment.
PMCID: PMC3580513  PMID: 23025688
3.  Anti-type II collagen antibodies are associated with early radiographic destruction in rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(3):R100.
We have previously reported that high levels of antibodies specific for native human type II collagen (anti-CII) at the time of RA diagnosis were associated with concurrent but not later signs of inflammation. This was associated with CII/anti-CII immune complex (IC)-induced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in vitro. In contrast, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (anti-CCP) were associated both with late inflammation and late radiological destruction in the same RA cohort. We therefore hypothesized that anti-CII are also associated with early erosions.
Two-hundred-and-fifty-six patients from an early RA cohort were included. Baseline levels of anti-CII, anti-CCP and anti-mutated citrullinated vimentin were analyzed with ELISA, and rheumatoid factor levels were determined by nephelometry. Radiographs of hands and feet at baseline, after one and after two years were quantified using the 32-joints Larsen erosion score.
Levels of anti-CII were bimodally distributed in the RA cohort, with a small (3.1%, 8/256) group of very high outliers with a median level 87 times higher than the median for the healthy control group. Using a cut-off discriminating the outlier group that was associated with anti-CII IC-induced production of proinflammatory cytokines in vitro, baseline anti-CII antibodies were significantly (p = 0.0486) associated with increased radiographic damage at the time of diagnosis. Anti-CII-positive patient had also significantly increased HAQ score (p = 0.0303), CRP (p = 0.0026) and ESR (p = 0.0396) at the time of diagnosis but not during follow-up. The median age among anti-CII-positive subjects was 12 years higher than among the anti-CII-negative patients.
In contrary to anti-CCP, anti-CII-positive patients with RA have increased joint destruction and HAQ score at baseline. Anti-CII thus characterizes an early inflammatory/destructive phenotype, in contrast to the late appearance of an inflammatory/destructive phenotype in anti-CCP positive RA patients. The anti-CII phenotype might account for part of the elderly acute onset RA phenotype with rather good prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3446477  PMID: 22548748
4.  Smoking interacts with HLA-DRB1 shared epitope in the development of anti-citrullinated protein antibody-positive rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Malaysian Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis (MyEIRA) 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a multifactorial autoimmune disease in which genetic and environmental factors interact in the etiology. In this study, we investigated whether smoking and HLA-DRB1 shared-epitope (SE) alleles interact differently in the development of the two major subgroups of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), anti-citrullinated proteins antibody (ACPA)-positive and ACPA-negative disease, in a multiethnic population of Asian descent.
A case-control study comprising early diagnosed RA cases was carried out in Malaysia between 2005 and 2009. In total, 1,076 cases and 1,612 matched controls participated in the study. High-resolution HLA-DRB1 genotyping was performed for shared-epitope (SE) alleles. All participants answered a questionnaire on a broad range of issues, including smoking habits. The odds ratio (OR) of developing ACPA-positive and ACPA-negative disease was calculated for smoking and the presence of any SE alleles separately. Potential interaction between smoking history (defined as "ever" and "never" smoking) and HLA-DRB1 SE alleles also was calculated.
In our multiethnic study, both the SE alleles and smoking were associated with an increased risk of developing ACPA-positive RA (OR SE alleles, 4.7; 95% confidence interval (CI), 3.6 to 6.2; OR smoking, 4.1; 95% CI, 1.9 to 9.2). SE-positive smokers had an odds ratio of ACPA-positive RA of 25.6 (95% CI, 10.4 to 63.4), compared with SE-negative never-smokers. The interaction between smoking and SE alleles was significant (attributable proportion due to interaction (AP) was 0.7 (95% CI, 0.5 to 1.0)). The HLA-DRB1*04:05 SE allele, which is common in Asian populations, but not among Caucasians, was associated with an increased risk of ACPA-positive RA, and this allele also showed signs of interaction with smoking (AP, 0.4; 95% CI, -0.1 to 0.9). Neither smoking nor SE alleles nor their combination was associated with an increased risk of ACPA-negative RA.
The risk of developing ACPA-positive RA is associated with a strong gene-environment interaction between smoking and HLA-DRB1 SE alleles in a Malaysian multiethnic population of Asian descent. This interaction seems to apply also between smoking and the specific HLA-DRB1*04:05 SE allele, which is common in Asian populations but not in Caucasians.
PMCID: PMC3446463  PMID: 22537824
5.  Usage of skin care products and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Swedish EIRA study 
The aim of this study was to investigate the association between exposure to cosmetics, often containing mineral oil, and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study was performed against the background that occupational exposure to mineral oil has recently been shown to be associated with an increased risk for RA in man, and that injection of or percutaneous exposure to mineral-oil-containing cosmetics can induce arthritis in certain rat strains.
A population-based case-control study of incident cases of RA was performed among the population aged 18 to 70 years in a defined area of Sweden during May 1996 to December 2003. A case was defined as an individual from the study base, who received for the first time a diagnosis of RA according to the 1987 American College of Rheumatology criteria. Controls were randomly selected from the study base with consideration taken for age, gender and residential area. Cases (n = 1,419) and controls (n = 1,674) answered an extensive questionnaire regarding environmental and lifestyle factors including habits of cosmetic usage. The relative risk of developing RA was calculated for subjects with different cosmetic usage compared with subjects with low or no usage. Analysis was also performed stratifying the cases for presence/absence of rheumatoid factor and antibodies to citrulline-containing peptides.
The relative risks of developing RA associated with use of cosmetics were all close to one, both for women and men, for different exposure categories, and in relation to different subgroups of RA.
This study does not support the hypothesis that ordinary usage of common cosmetics as body lotions, skin creams, and ointments, often containing mineral oil, increase the risk for RA in the population in general. We cannot exclude, however, that these cosmetics can contribute to arthritis in individuals carrying certain genotypes or simultaneously being exposed to other arthritis-inducing environmental agents.
PMCID: PMC3392837  PMID: 22455933
7.  Mannan Binding Lectin (MBL) genotypes coding for high MBL serum levels are associated with rheumatoid factor negative rheumatoid arthritis in never smokers 
Previous studies have provided inconsistent results on whether variants in the MBL2 gene, coding for the complement-activating mannan-binding lectin (MBL) protein, associate with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We re-evaluated this in context of the main environmental and genetic risk factors (smoking, HLA-DRB1 'shared epitope' (SE), PTPN22*620W), which predispose to rheumatoid factor (RF) and/or anti-citrullinated-protein antibody (ACPA)-positive RA.
In this population-based EIRA study, rheumatoid factor (RF), ACPA, smoking, SE and PTPN22*620W status was determined in incident RA cases and matched controls. MBL-high (n = 1330) and MBL-low (n = 1257) genotypes predicting MBL levels were constructed from four promoter and exon-1 polymorphisms in the MBL2 gene. Odds ratios with 95% confidence interval (OR, 95% CI) were calculated by logistic regression. In extended families (n = 316), previously reported data were re-analyzed, considering RF and smoking.
MBL-high genotypes tended to be associated with RF-negative (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 0.96-1.51) but not RF-positive (OR = 1.00, 95% CI 0.83-1.20) RA. Results divided by ACPA status did not differ. When stratified for smoking, MBL-high genotype was strongly associated with RF-negative RA in never smokers (OR = 1.82, 95% CI 1.24-2.69) but not in ever smokers (OR = 0.96, 95% CI 0.73-1.30). In never smokers, the association was observed in both the RF-negative/ACPA-negative (OR = 1.67, 95% CI 1.10-2.55) and RF-negative/ACPA-positive subgroups (OR = 3.07, 95% CI 1.37-6.89), and remained on an SE/PTPN22*620W negative background. In the extended families, the reported association between high MBL and RA was in fact confined to never smokers.
High MBL may predispose to RF-negative RA but only in individuals who have never smoked. This illustrates the importance of phenotypic subgrouping in genetic studies.
PMCID: PMC3132060  PMID: 21496252
8.  Association of serum markers with improvement in clinical response measures after treatment with golimumab in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis despite receiving methotrexate: results from the GO-FORWARD study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(6):R211.
The goal of this study was to identify serum markers that are modulated by treatment with golimumab with or without methotrexate (MTX) and are associated with clinical response.
Sera were collected at weeks 0 and 4 from a total of 336 patients (training dataset, n = 100; test dataset, n = 236) from the GO-FORWARD study of patients with active rheumatoid arthritis despite MTX. Patients were randomly assigned to receive placebo plus MTX; golimumab, 100 mg plus placebo; golimumab, 50 mg plus MTX; or golimumab, 100 mg plus MTX. Subcutaneous injections were administered every 4 weeks. Samples were tested for select inflammatory, bone, and cartilage markers and for protein profiling using multianalyte profiles.
Treatment with golimumab with or without MTX resulted in significant decreases in a variety of serum proteins at week 4 as compared with placebo plus MTX. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20, ACR 50, and Disease Activity Score (DAS) 28 responders showed a distinct biomarker profile compared with nonresponding patients.
ACR 20 and ACR 50 responders among the golimumab/golimumab + MTX-treated patients had a distinct change from baseline to week 4 in serum protein profile as compared with nonresponders. Some of these changed markers were also associated with multiple clinical response measures and improvement in outcome measures in golimumab/golimumab + MTX-treated patients. Although the positive and negative predictive values of the panel of markers were modest, they were stronger than C-reactive protein alone in predicting clinical response to golimumab.
Trial registration identification number: NCT00264550.
PMCID: PMC3046519  PMID: 21083889
9.  Evaluation of arthroscopy and macroscopic scoring 
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive technique for retrieving synovial biopsies in rheumatology during the past 20 years. Vital for its use is continual evaluation of its safety and efficacy. Important for sampling is the fact of intraarticular variation for synovial markers. For microscopic measurements scoring systems have been developed and validated, but for macroscopic evaluations there is a need for further comprehensive description and validation of equivalent scoring systems.
We studied the complication rate and yield of arthroscopies performed at our clinic between 1998 and 2005. We also created and evaluated a macroscopic score set of instructions for synovitis.
Of 408 procedures, we had two major and one minor complication; two haemarthrosis and one wound infection, respectively. Pain was most often not a problem, but 12 procedures had to be prematurely ended due to pain. Yield of biopsies adequate for histology were 83% over all, 94% for knee joints and 34% for smaller joints. Video printer photographs of synovium taken during arthroscopy were jointly and individually reviewed by seven raters in several settings, and intra and inter rater variation was calculated. A macroscopic synovial scoring system for arthroscopy was created (Macro-score), based upon hypertrophy, vascularity and global synovitis. These written instructions were evaluated by five control-raters, and when evaluated individual parameters were without greater intra or inter rater variability, indicating that the score is reliable and easy to use.
In our hands rheumatologic arthroscopy is a safe method with very few complications. For knee joints it is a reliable method to retrieve representative tissue in clinical longitudinal studies. We also created an easy to use macroscopic score, that needs to be validated against other methodologies. We hope it will be of value in further developing international standards in this area.
PMCID: PMC2714131  PMID: 19490631
10.  Blood autoantibody and cytokine profiles predict response to anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy in rheumatoid arthritis 
Anti-TNF therapies have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a common systemic autoimmune disease involving destruction of the synovial joints. However, in the practice of rheumatology approximately one-third of patients demonstrate no clinical improvement in response to treatment with anti-TNF therapies, while another third demonstrate a partial response, and one-third an excellent and sustained response. Since no clinical or laboratory tests are available to predict response to anti-TNF therapies, great need exists for predictive biomarkers.
Here we present a multi-step proteomics approach using arthritis antigen arrays, a multiplex cytokine assay, and conventional ELISA, with the objective to identify a biomarker signature in three ethnically diverse cohorts of RA patients treated with the anti-TNF therapy etanercept.
We identified a 24-biomarker signature that enabled prediction of a positive clinical response to etanercept in all three cohorts (positive predictive values 58 to 72%; negative predictive values 63 to 78%).
We identified a multi-parameter protein biomarker that enables pretreatment classification and prediction of etanercept responders, and tested this biomarker using three independent cohorts of RA patients. Although further validation in prospective and larger cohorts is needed, our observations demonstrate that multiplex characterization of autoantibodies and cytokines provides clinical utility for predicting response to the anti-TNF therapy etanercept in RA patients.
PMCID: PMC2714123  PMID: 19460157
11.  A case-control study of rheumatoid arthritis identifies an associated single nucleotide polymorphism in the NCF4 gene, supporting a role for the NADPH-oxidase complex in autoimmunity 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease with a heritability of 60%. Genetic contributions to RA are made by multiple genes, but only a few gene associations have yet been confirmed. By studying animal models, reduced capacity of the NADPH-oxidase (NOX) complex, caused by a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in one of its components (the NCF1 gene), has been found to increase severity of arthritis. To our knowledge, however, no studies investigating the potential role played by reduced reactive oxygen species production in human RA have yet been reported. In order to examine the role played by the NOX complex in RA, we investigated the association of 51 SNPs in five genes of the NOX complex (CYBB, CYBA, NCF4, NCF2, and RAC2) in a Swedish case-control cohort consisting of 1,842 RA cases and 1,038 control individuals. Several SNPs were found to be mildly associated in men in NCF4 (rs729749, P = 0.001), NCF2 (rs789181, P = 0.02) and RAC2 (rs1476002, P = 0.05). No associations were detected in CYBA or CYBB. By stratifying for autoantibody status, we identified a strong association for rs729749 (in NCF4) in autoantibody negative disease, with the strongest association detected in rheumatoid factor negative men (CT genotype versus CC genotype: odds ratio 0.34, 95% confidence interval 0.2 to 0.6; P = 0.0001). To our knowledge, this is the first genetic association identified between RA and the NOX complex, and it supports previous findings from animal models of the importance of reactive oxygen species production capacity to the development of arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2212587  PMID: 17897462
12.  Effect of infliximab on mRNA expression profiles in synovial tissue of rheumatoid arthritis patients 
We examined the gene expression profiles in arthroscopic biopsies retrieved from 10 rheumatoid arthritis patients before and after anti-TNF treatment with infliximab to investigate whether such profiles can be used to predict responses to the therapy, and to study effects of the therapy on the profiles. Responses to treatment were assessed using European League Against Rheumatism response criteria. Three patients were found to be good responders, five patients to be moderate responders and two patients to be nonresponders. The TNF-α status of the biopsies from each of the patients before treatment was also investigated immunohistochemically, and it was detected in biopsies from four of the patients, including all three of the good responders. The gene expression data demonstrate that all patients had unique gene expression signatures, with low intrapatient variability between biopsies. The data also revealed significant differences between the good responding and nonresponding patients (279 differentially expressed genes were detected, with a false discovery rate < 0.025). Among the identified genes we found that MMP-3 was significantly upregulated in good responders (log2 fold change, 2.95) compared with nonresponders, providing further support for the potential of MMP-3 as a marker for good responses to therapy. An even more extensive list of 685 significantly differentially expressed genes was found between patients in whom TNF-α was found and nonresponders, indicating that TNF-α could be an important biomarker for successful infliximab treatment. Significant differences were also observed between biopsies taken before and after anti-TNF treatment, including 115 differentially expressed genes in the good responding group. Interestingly, the effect was even stronger in the group in which TNF-α was immunohistochemically detected before therapy. Here, 1,058 genes were differentially expressed, including many that were novel in this context (for example, CXCL3 and CXCL14). Subsequent Gene Ontology analysis revealed that several 'themes' were significantly over-represented that are known to be affected by anti-TNF treatment in inflammatory tissue; for example, immune response (GO:0006955), cell communication (GO:0007154), signal transduction (GO:0007165) and chemotaxis (GO:0006935). No genes reached statistical significance in the moderately responding or nonresponding groups. In conclusion, this pilot study suggests that further investigation is warranted on the usefulness of gene expression profiling of synovial tissue to predict and monitor the outcome of rheumatoid arthritis therapies.
PMCID: PMC1794525  PMID: 17134501
13.  Variability in synovial inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis investigated by microarray technology 
In recent years microarray technology has been used increasingly to acquire knowledge about the pathogenic processes involved in rheumatoid arthritis. The present study investigated variations in gene expression in synovial tissues within and between patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This was done by applying microarray technology on multiple synovial biopsies obtained from the same knee joints. In this way the relative levels of intra-patient and inter-patient variation could be assessed. The biopsies were obtained from 13 different patients: 7 by orthopedic surgery and 6 by rheumatic arthroscopy. The data show that levels of heterogeneity varied substantially between the biopsies, because the number of genes found to be differentially expressed between pairs of biopsies from the same knee ranged from 6 to 2,133. Both arthroscopic and orthopedic biopsies were examined, allowing us to compare the two sampling methods. We found that the average number of differentially expressed genes between biopsies from the same patient was about three times larger in orthopedic than in arthroscopic biopsies. Using a parallel analysis of the tissues by immunohistochemistry, we also identified orthopedic biopsies that were unsuitable for gene expression analysis of synovial inflammation due to sampling of non-inflamed parts of the tissue. Removing these biopsies reduced the average number of differentially expressed genes between the orthopedic biopsies from 455 to 171, in comparison with 143 for the arthroscopic biopsies. Hierarchical clustering analysis showed that the remaining orthopedic and arthroscopic biopsies had gene expression signatures that were unique for each patient, apparently reflecting patient variation rather than tissue heterogeneity. Subsets of genes found to vary between biopsies were investigated for overrepresentation of biological processes by using gene ontology. This revealed representative 'themes' likely to vary between synovial biopsies affected by inflammatory disease.
PMCID: PMC1526587  PMID: 16507157
14.  Synovial expression of IL-15 in rheumatoid arthritis is not influenced by blockade of tumour necrosis factor 
Blockade of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) is an effective treatment in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but both non-responders and partial responders are quite frequent. This suggests that other pro-inflammatory cytokines may be of importance in the pathogenesis of RA and as possible targets for therapy. In this study we investigated the effect of TNF blockade (infliximab) on the synovial expression of IL-15 in RA in relation to different cell types and expression of other cytokines, to elucidate whether or not IL-15 is a possible target for therapy, independently of TNF blockade. Two arthroscopies with multiple biopsies were performed on nine patients with RA and knee-joint synovitis before and after three infusions of infliximab (3 mg/kg). Synovial biopsies were analysed with immunohistochemistry for expression of IL-15, TNF, IL-1α, IL-1ß and IFN-γ, and for the cell surface markers CD3, CD68 and CD163. Stained synovial biopsy sections were evaluated by computerized image analysis. IL-15 expression was detected in all synovial biopsies taken at baseline. After infliximab therapy, the expression of IL-15 was increased in four patients and reduced in five. Synovial expression of IL-15 was not correlated with any CD marker or with the presence of any other cytokine. Synovial cellularity was decreased after 8 to 10 weeks of treatment with a significant reduction of the CD68-positive synovial cells, whereas no significant change was seen in the number of CD3-positive T cells and CD163-expressing macrophages. The number of TNF-producing cells in the synovial tissue at baseline was correlated with a good response to therapy. Thus, in this study the synovial expression of IL-15 in RA was not consistently influenced by TNF blockade, being apparently independent of TNF expression in the synovium. Consequently, we propose that IL-15 should remain as a therapeutic target in RA, regardless of the response to TNF blockade.
PMCID: PMC1526582  PMID: 16507118
15.  Association between occupational exposure to mineral oil and rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Swedish EIRA case–control study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(6):R1296-R1303.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the association between exposure to mineral oil and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and in addition to perform a separate analysis on the major subphenotypes for the disease; namely, rheumatoid factor (RF)-positive RA, RF-negative RA, anticitrulline-positive RA and anticitrulline-negative RA, respectively. A population-based case–control study of incident cases of RA was performed among the population aged 18–70 years in a defined area of Sweden during May 1996–December 2003. A case was defined as an individual from the study base who for the first time received a diagnosis of RA according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria of 1987. Controls were randomly selected from the study base with consideration taken for age, gender and residential area. Cases (n = 1,419) and controls (n = 1,674) answered an extensive questionnaire regarding lifestyle factors and occupational exposures, including different types of mineral oils. Sera from cases and controls were investigated for RF and anticitrulline antibodies.
Among men, exposure to any mineral oil was associated with a 30% increased relative risk of developing RA (relative risk = 1.3, 95% confidence interval = 1.0–1.7). When cases were subdivided into RF-positive RA and RF-negative RA, an increased risk was only observed for RF-positive RA (relative risk = 1.4, 95% confidence interval 1.0–2.0). When RA cases were subdivided according to the presence of anticitrulline antibodies, an increased risk associated with exposure to any mineral oil was observed only for anticitrulline-positive RA (relative risk = 1.6, 95% confidence interval = 1.1–2.2). Analysis of the interaction between oil exposure and the presence of HLA-DR shared epitope genes regarding the incidence of RA indicated that the increased risk associated with exposure to mineral oil was not related to the presence of shared epitope genotypes.
In conclusion, our study shows that exposure to mineral oil is associated with an increased risk to develop RF-positive RA and anticitrulline-positive RA, respectively. The findings are of particular interest since the same mineral oils can induce polyarthritis in rats.
PMCID: PMC1297574  PMID: 16277683
16.  Modulating co-stimulation: a rational strategy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(Suppl 2):S15-S20.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common destructive inflammatory disease that affects 0.5–1% of the population in many countries. Even though several new treatments have been introduced for patients with RA, a considerable proportion of patients do not benefit from these, and the need for alternative treatment strategies is clear. This review explores the potential for a therapy targeting the adaptive immune system by modulating co-stimulation of T cells with a CTLA4–Ig fusion protein (abatacept).
PMCID: PMC2833979  PMID: 15833144
17.  Citrullinated proteins have increased immunogenicity and arthritogenicity and their presence in arthritic joints correlates with disease severity 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(3):R458-R467.
Autoantibodies directed against citrulline-containing proteins have an impressive specificity of nearly 100% in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and have been suggested to be involved in the disease pathogenesis. The targeted epitopes are generated by a post-translational modification catalysed by the calcium-dependent enzyme peptidyl arginine deiminase (PAD), which converts positively charged arginine to polar but uncharged citrulline. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of citrullination on the immunogenicity of autoantigens as well as on potential arthritogenicity. Thus, immune responses to citrullinated rat serum albumin (Cit-RSA) and to unmodified rat serum albumin (RSA) were examined as well as arthritis development induced by immunisation with citrullinated rat collagen type II (Cit-CII) or unmodified CII. In addition, to correlate the presence of citrullinated proteins and the enzyme PAD4 with different stages of arthritis, synovial tissues obtained at different time points from rats with collagen-induced arthritis were examined immunohistochemically. Our results demonstrate that citrullination of the endogenous antigen RSA broke immunological tolerance, as was evident by the generation of antibodies directed against the modified protein and cross-reacting with the native protein. Furthermore we could demonstrate that Cit-CII induced arthritis with higher incidence and earlier onset than did the native counterpart. Finally, this study reveals that clinical signs of arthritis precede the presence of citrullinated proteins and the enzyme PAD4. As disease progressed into a more severe and chronic state, products of citrullination appeared specifically in the joints. Citrullinated proteins were detected mainly in extracellular deposits but could also be found in infiltrating cells and on the cartilage surface. PAD4 was detected in the cytoplasm of infiltrating mononuclear cells, from day 21 after immunisation and onwards. In conclusion, our data reveal the potency of citrullination to break tolerance against the self antigen RSA and to increase the arthritogenic properties of the cartilage antigen CII. We also show that citrullinated proteins and the enzyme PAD4 are not detectable in healthy joints, and that the appearance and amounts in arthritic joints of experimental animals are correlated with the severity of inflammation.
PMCID: PMC1174941  PMID: 15899032
18.  CD25brightCD4+ regulatory T cells are enriched in inflamed joints of patients with chronic rheumatic disease 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2004;6(4):R335-R346.
CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells participate in the regulation of immune responses. We recently demonstrated the presence of CD25brightCD4+ regulatory T cells with a capacity to control T cell proliferation in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Here, we investigate a possible accumulation of these regulatory T cells in the inflamed joint of different rheumatic diseases including rheumatoid arthritis. The studies are also extended to analyze whether cytokine production can be suppressed by the regulatory T cells. Synovial fluid and peripheral blood samples were obtained during relapse from 36 patients with spondyloarthropathies, 21 adults with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and 135 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and the frequency of CD25brightCD4+ T cells was determined. Of 192 patients, 182 demonstrated a higher frequency of CD25brightCD4+ T cells in synovial fluid than in peripheral blood. In comparison with healthy subjects, the patients had significantly fewer CD25brightCD4+ T cells in peripheral blood. For functional studies, synovial fluid cells from eight patients were sorted by flow cytometry, and the suppressive capacity of the CD25brightCD4+ T cells was determined in in vitro cocultures. The CD25brightCD4+ T cells suppressed the production of both type 1 and 2 cytokines including interleukin-17, as well as proliferation, independently of diagnosis. Thus, irrespective of the inflammatory joint disease investigated, CD25brightCD4+ T cells were reduced in peripheral blood and enriched in the joint, suggesting an active recruitment of regulatory T cells to the affected joint. Their capacity to suppress both proliferation and cytokine secretion might contribute to a dampening of local inflammatory processes.
PMCID: PMC464877  PMID: 15225369
autoimmunity; cytokines; human; immune homeostasis; interleukin-17
19.  A combination of autoantibodies to cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) and HLA-DRB1 locus antigens is strongly associated with future onset of rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2004;6(4):R303-R308.
Antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) and rheumatoid factors (RFs) have been demonstrated to predate the onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by years. A nested case–control study was performed within the Northern Sweden Health and Disease study cohort to analyse the presence of shared epitope (SE) genes, defined as HLA-DRB1*0404 or DRB1*0401, and of anti-CCP antibodies and RFs in individuals who subsequently developed RA. Patients with RA were identified from among blood donors whose samples had been collected years before the onset of symptoms. Controls matched for age, sex, and date of sampling were selected randomly from the same cohort. The SE genes were identified by polymerase chain reaction sequence-specific primers. Anti-CCP2 antibodies and RFs were determined using enzyme immunoassays. Fifty-nine individuals with RA were identified as blood donors, with a median antedating time of 2.0 years (interquartile range 0.9–3.9 years) before presenting with symptoms of RA. The sensitivity for SE as a diagnostic indicator for RA was 60% and the specificity was 64%. The corresponding figures for anti-CCP antibodies were 37% and 98%, and for RFs, 17–42% and 94%, respectively. In a logistic regression analysis, SE (odds ratio [OR] = 2.35), anti-CCP antibodies (OR = 15.9), and IgA-RF (OR = 6.8) significantly predicted RA. In a combination model analysis, anti-CCP antibodies combined with SE had the highest OR (66.8, 95% confidence interval 8.3–539.4) in predicting RA, compared with anti-CCP antibodies without SE (OR = 25.01, 95% confidence interval 2.8–222.2) or SE without anti-CCP antibodies (OR = 1.9, 95% confidence interval 0.9–4.2). This study showed that the presence of anti-CCP antibodies together with SE gene carriage is associated with a very high relative risk for future development of RA.
PMCID: PMC464874  PMID: 15225365
anti-CCP antibodies; rheumatoid arthritis; rheumatoid factor; shared epitope
20.  Etanercept versus etanercept plus methotrexate: a registry-based study suggesting that the combination is clinically more efficacious 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2003;5(6):R347-R351.
Etanercept can be used both as monotherapy and in combination with methotrexate (MTX), but direct comparisons of these two options have not yet been reported. In order to compare the results seen in actual practice between these two options, clinical data on 97 patients followed in the Stockholm TNFα Follow-Up Registry were analysed. In 57 of these patients etanercept was added to previously started MTX while the others were treated with etanercept alone. The two groups had similar levels of disease activity at baseline. After 3 months, a significantly lower mean disease activity score (28-joint count-based disease activity score) was attained by the patients on etanercept plus MTX. In this group, the number of patients achieving European League Against Rheumatism-defined remission was also significantly greater. Other disease outcomes showed non-significant trends in the same direction. These data suggest that the combination of etanercept plus MTX is clinically more efficacious than etanercept alone.
PMCID: PMC333416  PMID: 14680509
combination; etanercept; methotrexate; rheumatoid arthritis; treatment

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