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1.  CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells: a marker for lupus nephritis? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(2):R104.
Introduction
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogenous autoimmune disease, which can affect different organs. Increased proportions of CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells have been described in SLE patients. The exact role of this cell population in SLE patients still remains unclear. We therefore analyzed this T cell subset in a large cohort of SLE patients with different organ manifestations.
Methods
Phenotypic analyses, proportions and absolute cell numbers of CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells were determined by flow cytometry (FACS) in healthy controls (HC) (n = 36) and SLE patients (n = 61) with different organ manifestations. CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells were correlated with clinical data, the immunosuppressive therapy and different disease activity indices. In patients with active glomerulonephritis, CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells were analyzed in urine sediment samples. Time course analyses of CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells were performed in patients with active disease activity before and after treatment with cyclophosphamide and prednisone.
Results
CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells were significantly increased in active SLE patients and the majority expressed Helios. Detailed analysis of this patient cohort revealed increased proportions of CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells in SLE patients with renal involvement. CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells were also detected in urine sediment samples of patients with active glomerulonephritis and correlated with the extent of proteinuria.
Conclusion
CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells resemble regulatory rather than activated T cells. Comparative analysis of CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells in SLE patients revealed a significant association of this newly described cell population with active nephritis. Therefore CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ T cells might serve as an important tool to recognize and monitor SLE patients with renal involvement.
doi:10.1186/ar4553
PMCID: PMC4060257  PMID: 24774748
2.  Remission in rheumatoid arthritis: benefit over low disease activity in patient-reported outcomes and costs 
Introduction
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes a considerable burden for the patient and society. It is not clear yet whether aiming for remission (REM) is worthwhile, especially when compared with low disease activity (LDA).
Methods
In 356 consecutive RA patients, we obtained data on physical function (health assessment questionnaire (HAQ)), health-related quality of life (HRQoL: Short Form 36 (SF36), Short Form 6 dimensions (SF-6D), Euro QoL 5D (EQ-5D)), work productivity (work productivity and activity impairment questionnaire (WPAI)), as well as estimation of direct and indirect costs. Cross-sectionally, data were compared in patients within different levels of disease activity according to the simplified disease activity index (SDAI; remission (REM ≤3.3); n = 87; low disease activity (LDA: 3.3 < SDAI ≤11); n = 103; moderate to high disease activity (MDA/HDA) >11 n = 119) by using analyses of variance (ANOVA). Longitudinal investigations assessed patients who changed from LDA to REM and vice versa.
Results
We found differences in patients achieving REM compared with LDA for HAQ (0.39 ± 0.58 versus 0.72 ± 68), WPAI (percentage impairment while working 11.8% ± 18.7% versus 26.8% ± 23.9%; percentage of overall activity impairment, 10.8% ± 14.1% versus 29.0% ± 23.6%)), EQ-5D (0.89 ± 0.12 versus 0.78 ± 0.6) and SF-36 (physical component score (PCS): 46.0 ± 8.6 versus 38.3 ± 10.5; mental component score (MCS): 49.9 ± 11.1 versus 47.9 ± 12.3) (P < 0.01 for all, except for SF36 MCS). Regarding costs, we found significant differences of direct and indirect costs (P < 0.05) within different levels of disease activity, with higher costs in patients with higher states of disease activity. Longitudinal evaluations confirmed the main analyses.
Conclusion
Patients with REM show better function, HRQoL, and productivity, even when compared with another good state, such as LDA. Also from a cost perspective, REM appears superior to all other states.
doi:10.1186/ar4491
PMCID: PMC3979137  PMID: 24555808
3.  Value of self-performed joint counts in rheumatoid arthritis patients near remission 
Introduction
To determine the validity and reliability of patients' self-performed joint counts compared to joint counts by professional assessors in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in different disease activity states.
Methods
In patients with established RA we determined the inter-rater reliability of joint counts performed by an independent evaluator and the patient using intraclass correlation (ICC), and agreement on activity in individual joints by kappa statistics. We also performed longitudinal analyses to assess consistency of assessments over time. Finally, we investigated the concordance of joint counts of different assessors in patients with different levels of disease activity.
Results
The reliability of patient self-performed joint counts was high when compared to independent objective assessment (ICC; 95%confidence interval (CI)) for the assessment of swelling (0.32; 0.15 to 0.46) and tenderness (0.75; 0.66 to 0.81), with higher agreement for larger joints (kappa: 0.57 and 0.45, respectively) compared to smaller joints (metacarpo-phalangeal joint (MCPs): 0.31 and 0.45; and proximal interphalangeal joint (PIPs): 0.22 and 0.47, for swelling and tenderness, respectively).
Patients in remission according to the Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI ≤ 3.3) showed better concordance of the joint counts (swollen joint count (SJC) ties 25/37, tender joint count (TJC) ties 26/37) compared to moderate/high disease activity states (SDAI > 11; MDA/HDA: SJC ties 9/72, TJC ties 21/72). Positive and negative predictive values regarding the presence of SDAI remission were reasonably good (0.86 and 0.95, respectively). A separate training session for patients did not improve the reliability of joint assessment. The results were consistent in the longitudinal analyses.
Conclusions
Self-performed joint counts are particularly useful for monitoring in patients having attained remission, as these patients seem able to detect state of remission.
doi:10.1186/ar3777
PMCID: PMC3446429  PMID: 22417647
6.  CD55 deposited on synovial collagen fibers protects from immune complex-mediated arthritis 
Introduction
CD55, a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored, complement-regulating protein (decay-accelerating factor), is expressed by fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) with high local abundance in the intimal lining layer. We here explored the basis and consequences of this uncommon presence.
Methods
Synovial tissue, primary FLS cultures, and three-dimensional FLS micromasses were analyzed. CD55 expression was assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in situ hybridization, flow cytometry, and immunohistochemistry. Reticular fibers were visualized by Gomori staining and colocalization of CD55 with extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins by confocal microscopy. Membrane-bound CD55 was released from synovial tissue with phospholipase C. Functional consequences of CD55 expression were studied in the K/BxN serum transfer model of arthritis using mice that in addition to CD55 also lack FcγRIIB (CD32), increasing susceptibility for immune complex-mediated pathology.
Results
Abundant CD55 expression seen in FLS of the intimal lining layer was associated with linearly oriented reticular fibers and was resistant to phospholipase C treatment. Expression of CD55 colocalized with collagen type I and III as well as with complement C3. A comparable distribution of CD55 was established in three-dimensional micromasses after ≥3 weeks of culture together with the ECM. CD55 deficiency did not enhance K/BxN serum-induced arthritis, but further exaggerated disease activity in Fcgr2b−/− mice.
Conclusions
CD55 is produced by FLS and deposited on the local collagen fiber meshwork, where it protects the synovial tissue against immune complex-mediated arthritis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0518-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0518-4
PMCID: PMC4325944  PMID: 25596646
7.  Infliximab: 12 years of experience 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(Suppl 1):S2.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) are immune-mediated conditions that share an inflammatory mechanism fuelled by excessive cytokines, particularly TNF. Control of inflammation and rapid suppression of cytokines are important in treating these diseases. With this understanding and the corresponding advent of TNF inhibitors, RA patients, AS patients and PsA patients have found more choices than ever before and have greater hope of sustained relief. As a widely used TNF inhibitor, infliximab has a deep and established record of efficacy and safety data. Extensive evidence - from randomised controlled clinical trials, large registries and postmarketing surveillance studies - shows that infliximab effectively treats the signs and symptoms, provides rapid and prolonged suppression of inflammation, prevents radiologically observable disease progression and offers an acceptable safety profile in RA, AS and PsA. In very recent studies, investigators have observed drug-free remission in some patients. Additionally, infliximab may interfere with rapidly progressing disease in RA by early addition to methotrexate in patients with signs of an aggressive course. Finally, infliximab has been shown to reduce PsA clinical manifestations such as nail involvement. With our current understanding, substantial data and increasing confidence regarding use in practice, infliximab can be considered a well-known drug in our continued campaign against inflammatory rheumatic diseases.
doi:10.1186/1478-6354-13-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC3123963  PMID: 21624181
8.  Gait changes precede overt arthritis and strongly correlate with symptoms and histopathological events in pristane-induced arthritis 
Introduction
Pristane-induced arthritis (PIA) in the rat has been described as an animal model of inflammatory arthritis which exhibits features similar to rheumatoid arthritis in humans, such as a chronic, destructive, and symmetrical involvement of peripheral joints. However, so far little is known about the earliest inflammatory events and their influence on locomotor behaviour during the course of PIA. To investigate this issue a detailed analysis of the pathologic changes occurring during the prodromal and early stages of PIA was performed.
Methods
Arthritis was induced in DA.rats by injection of 150 μl 2,6,10,4-tetramethyl-pentadecane (pristane) at the base of the tail and changes in locomotor behaviour of the affected paws were monitored using the CatWalk quantitative gait analysis system. The pathologic events occurring in the joints of pristane-injected animals were studied before onset, at onset, and during acute phase of arthritis by histological methods.
Results
Gait analysis revealed that changes in locomotion such as reduced paw print areas and stance phase time are already apparent before the onset of clinically discernible arthritis symptoms (erythema, paw swelling) and correlate with PIA scores. In agreement with these findings, inflammatory tenosynovitis could be observed by histology already before the onset of erythema and swelling of the respective paws. In the most heavily affected rats also irregularities in step sequence patterns occurred A kinetic analysis of clinical and histological findings demonstrated that gait changes precede the pathological changes occurring during the acute phase of pristane-induced arthritis.
Conclusions
Gait analysis allows for pinpointing the initial inflammatory changes in experimental arthritis models such as pristane-induced arthritis. Analysis of early clinically relevant symptoms in arthritis models may facilitate the search for novel therapeutics to interfere with pain, inflammation and joint destruction in patients suffering from inflammatory arthritis.
doi:10.1186/ar2950
PMCID: PMC2888188  PMID: 20222952
9.  Developments in the clinical understanding of rheumatoid arthritis 
The changes occurring in the field of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) over the past decade or two have encompassed new therapies and, in particular, a new look at the clinical characteristics of the disease in the context of therapeutic improvements. It has been shown that composite disease activity indices have special merits in following patients, that disease activity governs the evolution of joint damage, and that disability can be dissected into several components – among them disease activity and joint damage. It has also been revealed that aiming at any disease activity state other than remission (or, at worst, low disease activity) is associated with significant progression of joint destruction, that early recognition and appropriate therapy of RA are important facets of the overall strategy of optimal clinical control of the disease, and that tight control employing composite scores supports the optimization of the therapeutic approaches. Finally, with the advent of novel therapies, remission has become a reality and the treatment algorithms encompassing all of the above-mentioned aspects will allow us to achieve the rigorous aspirations of today and tomorrow.
doi:10.1186/ar2535
PMCID: PMC2688215  PMID: 19232060
10.  The need for prognosticators in rheumatoid arthritis. Biological and clinical markers: where are we now? 
Rheumatoid arthritis is a heterogeneous disease with respect to clinical manifestations, serologic abnormalities, joint damage and functional impairment. Predicting outcome in a reliable way to allow for strategic therapeutic decision-making as well as for prediction of the response to the various therapeutic modalities available today, especially biological agents, would provide means for optimization of care. In the present article, the current information on biological and clinical markers related to disease activity and joint damage as well as for predictive purposes is reviewed. It will be shown that the relationship of many biomarkers with disease characteristics is confounded by factors unrelated to the disease, and that only few biomarkers exist with some predictive value. Moreover, clinical markers appear of equal value as biomarkers for this purpose, although they likewise have limited capacity in these regards. The analysis suggests the search for better markers to predict outcomes and therapeutic responsiveness in rheumatoid arthritis needs to be intensified.
doi:10.1186/ar2418
PMCID: PMC2483438  PMID: 18557991
11.  The role of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Murine models of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have shown apparently contradictory evidence in that either (a) tumor necrosis factor (TNF) expression was low and TNF administration helpful or (b) TNF was high and TNF blockade of therapeutic benefit, depending on the mouse model investigated. In fact, TNF apparently has both effects, checking autoimmunity, at least to some degree, and fostering inflammation. TNF blockade regularly, but transiently, induces or increases autoantibodies to chromatin and to phospholipids. At the same time, open-label data suggest that TNF blockade suppresses inflammatory manifestations of SLE, and long-term benefit was seen in patients with lupus nephritis. A controlled clinical trial is under way.
doi:10.1186/ar2341
PMCID: PMC2374473  PMID: 18226185
12.  The impact of infliximab treatment on quality of life in patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases 
In this study, we compare the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of patients with moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and study the effect of treatment with infliximab on the HRQoL of patients with these diseases. Short Form Health Survey-36 (SF-36) data from the placebo-controlled phases of 4 studies of infliximab in patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases (n = 1990) were evaluated. Data came from the Anti-TNF Trial in Rheumatoid Arthritis with Concomitant Therapy (ATTRACT) (n = 428), the Safety Trial for Rheumatoid Arthritis with REMICADE Therapy (START) (n = 1083), the Ankylosing Spondylitis Study for the Evaluation of Recombinant Infliximab Therapy (ASSERT) (n = 279), and the Infliximab Multinational Psoriatic Arthritis Clinical Trial II (IMPACT II) (n = 200). SF-36 assessments were made at weeks 0, 10, 30, and 54 in ATTRACT, weeks 0, 6, and 22 in START, weeks 0, 12, and 24 in ASSERT, and weeks 0 and 14 in IMPACT II. All patient populations had significantly impaired physical aspects of HRQoL at baseline relative to the general population of the United States, and the magnitude of impairment was similar across the diseases. Mean baseline physical component summary scores were 29 in the RA cohort, 32 in the PsA cohort, and 29 in the AS cohort. In all 3 diseases, patients who received infliximab showed significant improvement in physical component summary scores compared with those who received placebo. The magnitude of the difference of improvement (effect size, 95%CI) between infliximab and placebo groups was similar in the AS (10.1, 9.2–11.0), PsA (8.6, 7.8–9.4), and RA (10.1, 9.2–11.0) cohorts. Patients with RA and those with PsA treated with infliximab also showed greater improvement in the mental component summary score than those in the placebo group with an effect size of 4.6 (4.2–5.1) in RA and 2.7 (2.4–3.1) in PsA. Patients in large randomized controlled studies of infliximab in RA, PsA, and AS had similar impairment in physical aspects of HRQoL at baseline and showed significantly greater improvement in HRQoL after treatment with infliximab.
doi:10.1186/ar2306
PMCID: PMC2212571  PMID: 17922913
13.  Remission by composite scores in rheumatoid arthritis: are ankles and feet important? 
Current treatment strategies aim to achieve clinical remission in order to prevent the long-term consequences of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Several composite indices are available to assess remission. All of them include joint counts as the assessment of the major 'organ' involved in RA, but some employ reduced joint counts, such as the 28-joint count, which excludes ankles and feet.
The aim of the present study was to determine the relevance of excluding joints of the ankles and feet in the assessment of RA disease activity and remission. Using a longitudinal observational RA dataset, we analyzed 767 patients (80% female, 60% rheumatoid factor-positive), for whom joint counts had been recorded at 2,754 visits. We determined the number of affected joints by the 28-JC and the 32-JC, the latter including ankles and combined metatarso-phalangeal joints (as a block on each side).
Several findings were supportive of the validity of the 28-joint count: (a) Absence of joint swelling on the 28-joint scale had a specificity of 98.1% and a positive predictive value (PPV) of 94.1% for the absence of swelling also on the 32-joint scale. For absence of tender joints, the specificity and PPV were 96.1% and 91.7%, respectively. (b) Patients with swollen or tender joints in the 32-JC, despite no joint activity in the 28-JC, were clearly different with regard to other disease activity measures. In particular, the patient global assessment of disease activity was higher in these individuals. Thus, the difference in the joint count was not relevant for composite disease activity assessment. (c) The disease activity score based on 28 joints (DAS28) may reach levels higher than 2.6 in patients with feet swelling since these patients often have other findings that raise DAS28. (d) The frequency of remission did not change when the 28-JC was replaced by 32-JC in the composite indices. (e) The changes in joint activity over time were almost identical in longitudinal analysis.
The assessment of the ankles and feet is an important part in the clinical evaluation of patients with RA. However, reduced joint counts are appropriate and valid tools for formal disease activity assessment, such as done in composite indices.
doi:10.1186/ar2270
PMCID: PMC2206375  PMID: 17662115
14.  Interleukin-6: a new therapeutic target 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2006;8(Suppl 2):S5.
The therapeutic success of biological agents, especially the tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, has opened a new chapter in the book of therapies for rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, more than 50% of patients may not respond by > 50% improvement. New compounds have recently entered the treatment arena. One of these is rituximab, which depletes B cells, and another, abatacept, interferes with T-cell co-stimulation. However, although these agents may be effective in a number of patients who fail to respond to TNF blockade, they only rarely induce remission and overall 50% response rates do not exceed those with the TNF inhibitors. Among the major proinflammatory cytokines, IL-6 plays a pleiotropic role both in terms of activating the inflammatory response and osteoclastogenesis. Here, we review recent phase II trials of tocilizumab, a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor antibody that achieves a significant therapeutic response rate.
doi:10.1186/ar1969
PMCID: PMC3226077  PMID: 16899109
15.  Expanding the frontiers of therapy 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2006;8(Suppl 2):S1.
doi:10.1186/ar1975
PMCID: PMC3226078  PMID: 16899105
16.  The spliceosomal autoantigen heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A2 (hnRNP-A2) is a major T cell autoantigen in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
A hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the appearance of autoantibodies to nuclear antigens, including autoantibodies directed to the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A2 (hnRNP-A2), which occur in 20% to 30% of SLE patients as well as in animal models of this disease. To investigate the underlying cellular reactivity and to gain further insight into the nature and potential pathogenic role of this autoimmune response we characterized the T cell reactivity against hnRNP-A2 in patients with SLE in comparison to healthy controls. Cellular proliferation of peripheral blood T cells to hnRNP-A2 was determined by [3H]thymidine incorporation and T cell clones (TCCs) specific for hnRNP-A2 were grown by limiting dilution cloning; IFNγ, IL-4 and IL-10 in culture supernatants were measured by ELISA. Bioactivity of culture supernatants was determined by incubation of anti-CD3/anti-CD28 stimulated peripheral blood CD4+ T cells with supernatants of TCCs. Stimulation assays performed with peripheral blood mononuclear cells of 35 SLE patients and 21 healthy controls revealed pronounced proliferative responses in 66% of SLE patients and in 24% of the controls, which were significantly higher in SLE patients (p < 0.00002). Furthermore, hnRNP-A2 specific TCCs generated from SLE patients (n = 22) contained a relatively high proportion of CD8+ clones and mostly lacked CD28 expression, in contrast to TCCs derived from healthy controls (n = 12). All CD4+ TCCs of patients and all control TCCs secreted IFNγ and no IL-4. In contrast, CD8+ TCCs of patients secreted very little IFNγ, while production of IL-10 did not significantly differ from other T cell subsets. Interestingly, all CD8+ clones producing IL-10 in large excess over IFNγ lacked expression of CD28. Functional assays showed a stimulatory effect of the supernatants derived from these CD8+CD28- hnRNP-A2 specific TCCs that was similar to that of CD4+CD28+ clones. Taken together, the pronounced peripheral T cell reactivity to hnRNP-A2 observed in the majority of SLE patients and the distinct phenotype of patient-derived CD8+ TCCs suggest a role for these T cells in the pathogenesis of SLE.
doi:10.1186/ar2007
PMCID: PMC1779394  PMID: 16859514
17.  Impairment of chondrocyte biosynthetic activity by exposure to 3-tesla high-field magnetic resonance imaging is temporary 
The influence of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices at high field strengths on living tissues is unknown. We investigated the effects of a 3-tesla electromagnetic field (EMF) on the biosynthetic activity of bovine articular cartilage. Bovine articular cartilage was obtained from juvenile and adult animals. Whole joints or cartilage explants were subjected to a pulsed 3-tesla EMF; controls were left unexposed. Synthesis of sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAGs) was measured by using [35S]sulfate incorporation; mRNA encoding the cartilage markers aggrecan and type II collagen, as well as IL-1β, were analyzed by RT–PCR. Furthermore, effects of the 3-tesla EMF were determined over the course of time directly after exposure (day 0) and at days 3 and 6. In addition, the influence of a 1.5-tesla EMF on cartilage sGAG synthesis was evaluated. Chondrocyte cell death was assessed by staining with Annexin V and TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL). Exposure to the EMF resulted in a significant decrease in cartilage macromolecule synthesis. Gene expression of both aggrecan and IL-1β, but not of collagen type II, was reduced in comparison with controls. Staining with Annexin V and TUNEL revealed no evidence of cell death. Interestingly, chondrocytes regained their biosynthetic activity within 3 days after exposure, as shown by proteoglycan synthesis rate and mRNA expression levels. Cartilage samples exposed to a 1.5-tesla EMF remained unaffected. Although MRI devices with a field strength of more than 1.5 T provide a better signal-to-noise ratio and thereby higher spatial resolution, their high field strength impairs the biosynthetic activity of articular chondrocytes in vitro. Although this decrease in biosynthetic activity seems to be transient, articular cartilage exposed to high-energy EMF may become vulnerable to damage.
doi:10.1186/ar1991
PMCID: PMC1779411  PMID: 16831232
18.  Aspects of early arthritis. Traditional DMARD therapy: is it sufficient? 
There is increasing evidence for beneficial effects of early DMARD (disease-modifying antirheumatic drug) therapy over delayed treatment in patients who present with arthritis of recent onset. However, no universal consensus exists concerning the choice of initial drug or whether single drugs or combinations should be given as initial treatments. Recent studies have focused on the benefits of various strategies in which treatments were tailored to achieve low levels of disease activity, as assessed using validated response criteria. These studies demonstrated superiority of 'aggressive' over 'conventional' approaches. Whether the inclusion of tumour necrosis factor antagonists or other biologic targeted therapies in such strategies confers additional benefits in terms of improved long-term outcomes must be clarified by further studies. Assessment of risks in the individual patient, allowing individual 'tailoring' of the initial treatment, would be desirable.
doi:10.1186/ar1966
PMCID: PMC1526637  PMID: 16719936
19.  Methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis is frequently effective, even if re-employed after a previous failure 
Effectiveness of therapy with individual disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is limited, and the number of available DMARDs is finite. Therefore, at some stage during the lengthy course of RA, institution of traditional DMARDs that have previously been applied may have to be reconsidered. In the present study we investigated the effectiveness of re-employed methotrexate in patients with a history of previous methotrexate failure (original course). A total of 1,490 RA patients (80% female, 59% rheumatoid factor positive) were followed from their first presentation, yielding a total of 6,470 patient-years of observation. We identified patients in whom methotrexate was re-employed after at least one intermittent course of a different DMARD. We compared reasons for discontinuation, improvement in acute phase reactants, and cumulative retention rates of methotrexate therapy between the original course of methotrexate and its re-employment. Similar analyses were peformed for other DMARDs. Methotrexate was re-employed in 86 patients. Compared with the original courses, re-employment was associated with a reduced risk for treatment termination because of ineffectiveness (P = 0.02, by McNemar test), especially if the maximum methotrexate dose of the original course had been low (<12.5 mg/week; P = 0.02, by logistic regression). In a Cox regression model, re-employed MTX was associated with a significantly reduced hazard of treatment termination compared with the original course of methotrexate, adjusting for dose and year of employment (hazard ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.42–0.97; P = 0.04). These findings were not recapitulated in analyses of re-employment of other DMARDs. Re-employment of MTX despite prior inefficacy, but not re-employment of other DMARDs, is an effective therapeutic option, especially in those patients in whom the methotrexate dose of the original course was low.
doi:10.1186/ar1902
PMCID: PMC1526609  PMID: 16507172
20.  Imbalance of local bone metabolism in inflammatory arthritis and its reversal upon tumor necrosis factor blockade: direct analysis of bone turnover in murine arthritis 
Chronic arthritis typically leads to loss of periarticular bone, which results from an imbalance between bone formation and bone resorption. Recent research has focused on the role of osteoclastogenesis and bone resorption in arthritis. Bone resorption cannot be observed isolated, however, since it is closely linked to bone formation and altered bone formation may also affect inflammatory bone loss. To simultaneously assess bone resorption and bone formation in inflammatory arthritis, we developed a histological technique that allows visualization of osteoblast function by in-situ hybridization for osteocalcin and osteoclast function by histochemistry for tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase. Paw sections from human tumor necrosis factor transgenic mice, which develop an erosive arthritis, were analyzed at three different skeletal sites: subchondral bone erosions, adjacent cortical bone channels, and endosteal regions distant from bone erosions. In subchondral bone erosions, osteoclasts were far more common than osteoblasts. In contrast, cortical bone channels underneath subchondral bone erosions showed an accumulation of osteoclasts but also of functional osteoblasts resembling a status of high bone turnover. In contrast, more distant skeletal sites showed only very low bone turnover with few scattered osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Within subchondral bone erosions, osteoclasts populated the subchondral as well as the inner wall, whereas osteoblasts were almost exclusively found along the cortical surface. Blockade of tumor necrosis factor reversed the negative balance of bone turnover, leading to a reduction of osteoclast numbers and enhanced osteoblast numbers, whereas the blockade of osteoclastogenesis by osteoprotegerin also abrogated the osteoblastic response. These data indicate that bone resorption dominates at skeletal sites close to synovial inflammatory tissue, whereas bone formation is induced at more distant sites attempting to counter-regulate bone resorption.
doi:10.1186/ar1872
PMCID: PMC1526585  PMID: 16507121
21.  Tumour necrosis factor activates the mitogen-activated protein kinases p38α and ERK in the synovial membrane in vivo 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(5):R1140-R1147.
Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) is considered to be a major factor in chronic synovial inflammation and is an inducer of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling. In the present study we investigated the ability of TNF to activate MAPKs in the synovial membrane in vivo. We studied human TNF transgenic mice – an in vivo model of TNF-induced arthritis – to examine phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-Jun amino terminal kinase (JNK) and p38MAPKα in the inflamed joints by means of immunoblot and immunohistochemistry. In addition, the effects of systemic blockade of TNF, IL-1 and receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB (RANK) ligand on the activation of MAPKs were assessed. In vivo, overexpression of TNF induced activation of p38MAPKα and ERK in the synovial membrane, whereas activation of JNK was less pronounced and rarely observed on immunohistochemical analysis. Activated p38MAPKα was predominantly found in synovial macrophages, whereas ERK activation was present in both synovial macrophages and fibroblasts. T and B lymphocytes did not exhibit major activation of any of the three MAPKs. Systemic blockade of TNF reduced activation of p38MAPKα and ERK, whereas inhibition of IL-1 only affected p38MAPKα and blockade of RANK ligand did not result in any decrease in MAPK activation in the synovial membrane. These data indicate that TNF preferentially activates p38MAPKα and ERK in synovial membrane exposed to TNF. This not only suggests that targeted inhibition of p38MAPKα and ERK is a feasible strategy for blocking TNF-mediated effects on joints, but it also shows that even currently available methods to block TNF effectively reduce activation of these two MAPKs.
doi:10.1186/ar1797
PMCID: PMC1257441  PMID: 16207331
22.  Acute phase reactants add little to composite disease activity indices for rheumatoid arthritis: validation of a clinical activity score 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(4):R796-R806.
Introduction
Frequent assessments of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) disease activity allow timely adaptation of therapy, which is essential in preventing disease progression. However, values of acute phase reactants (APRs) are needed to calculate current composite activity indices, such as the Disease Activity Score (DAS)28, the DAS28-CRP (i.e. the DAS28 using C-reactive protein instead of erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and the Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI). We hypothesized that APRs make limited contribution to the SDAI, and that an SDAI-modification eliminating APRs – termed the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI; i.e. the sum of tender and swollen joint counts [28 joints] and patient and physician global assessments [in cm]) – would have comparable validity in clinical cohorts.
Method
Data sources comprised an observational cohort of 767 RA patients (average disease duration 8.1 ± 10.6 years), and an independent inception cohort of 106 patients (disease duration 11.5 ± 12.5 weeks) who were followed prospectively.
Results
Our clinically based hypothesis was statistically supported: APRs accounted only for 15% of the DAS28, and for 5% of the SDAI and the DAS28-CRP. In both cohorts the CDAI correlated strongly with DAS28 (R = 0.89–0.90) and comparably to the correlation of SDAI with DAS28 (R = 0.90–0.91). In additional analyses, the CDAI when compared to the SDAI and the DAS28 agreed with a weighted kappa of 0.70 and 0.79, respectively, and comparably to the agreement between DAS28 and DAS28-CRP. All three scores correlated similarly with Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores (R = 0.45–0.47). The average changes in all scores were greater in patients with better American College of Rheumatology response (P < 0.0001, analysis of variance; discriminant validity). All scores exhibited similar correlations with radiological progression (construct validity) over 3 years (R = 0.54–0.58; P < 0.0001).
Conclusion
APRs add little information on top (and independent) of the combination of clinical variables included in the SDAI. A purely clinical score is a valid measure of disease activity and will have its greatest merits in clinical practice rather than research, where APRs are usually always available. The CDAI may facilitate immediate and consistent treatment decisions and help to improve patient outcomes in the longer term.
doi:10.1186/ar1740
PMCID: PMC1175030  PMID: 15987481
23.  The active metabolite of leflunomide, A77 1726, interferes with dendritic cell function 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(3):R694-R703.
Leflunomide, a potent disease-modifying antirheumatic drug used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), exhibits anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and immunosuppressive effects. Although most of the beneficial effects of leflunomide have been attributed to its antimetabolite activity, mainly in T cells, other targets accounting for its potency might still exist. Because of mounting evidence for a prominent role of dendritic cells (DCs) in the initiation and maintenance of the immune response in RA, we analyzed the effect of the active metabolite of leflunomide (A77 1726; LEF-M) on phenotype and function of human myleloid DCs at several stages in their life cycle. Importantly, DCs differentiated in the presence of LEF-M exhibited an altered phenotype, with largely reduced surface expression of the critical co-stimulatory molecules CD40 and CD80. Furthermore, treatment of DCs during the differentiation or maturation phase with LEF-M aborted successful DC maturation. Exogenous addition of uridine revealed that DC modulation by LEF-M was independent of its proposed ability as an antimetabolite. In addition, the ability of DCs to initiate T-cell proliferation and to produce the proinflammatory cytokines IL-12 and tumour necrosis factor-α was markedly impaired by LEF-M treatment. As a molecular mechanism, transactivation of nuclear factor-κB, an transcription factor essential for proper DC function, was completely suppressed in DCs treated with LEF-M. These data indicate that interference with several aspects of DC function could significantly contribute to the beneficial effects of leflunomide in inflammatory diseases, including RA.
doi:10.1186/ar1727
PMCID: PMC1174963  PMID: 15899055
24.  The science of rheumatoid arthritis: a prelude 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(Suppl 2):S1-S3.
doi:10.1186/ar1720
PMCID: PMC2833982
25.  JNK1 is not essential for TNF-mediated joint disease 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2004;7(1):R166-R173.
Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) signalling molecules are considered as promising therapeutic targets of antirheumatic therapy. Among them, mitogen-activated protein kinases are thought to be of central importance. Herein, we investigate the role in vivo of TNF-α signalling through c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)1 in destructive arthritis. Human TNF transgenic (hTNFtg) mice, which develop inflammatory arthritis, were intercrossed with JNK1-deficient (JNK1-/-) mice. Animals (n = 35) of all four genotypes (wild-type, JNK1-/-, hTNFtg, JNK1-/-hTNFtg) were assessed for clinical and histological signs of arthritis. Clinical features of arthritis (swelling and decreased grip strength) developed equally in hTNFtg and JNK1-/-hTNFtg mice. Histological analyses revealed no differences in the quantity of synovial inflammation and bone erosions or in the cellular composition of the synovial infiltrate. Bone destruction and osteoclast formation were observed to a similar degree in hTNFtg and JNK1-/-hTNFtg animals. Moreover, cartilage damage, as indicated by proteoglycan loss in the articular cartilage, was comparable in the two strains. Intact phosphorylation of JNK and c-Jun as well as expression of JNK2 in the synovial tissue of JNK1-/-hTNFtg mice suggests that signalling through JNK2 may compensate for the deficiency in JNK1. Thus, JNK1 activation does not seem to be essential for TNF-mediated arthritis.
doi:10.1186/ar1473
PMCID: PMC1064897  PMID: 15642137
arthritis; JNK1; TNF-α transgenic

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