Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α is produced by cells of the immune system and is a key mediator in immune and inflammatory reactions. Through interaction with widely expressed receptors (TNF receptor 1 and TNF receptor 2), TNF-α is able to orchestrate the expression of a range of downstream proinflammatory molecules. Over the past decade novel biologics that inhibit TNF-α have been developed as extremely effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Structurally, these biologics are antibodies, or TNF receptors on an antibody backbone that bind TNF-α directly and are delivered to patients by repeated injection. Gene therapy offers an improved approach to delivering biologics as a single administration of their encoding genetic material. In the present study we demonstrate the therapeutic effect of a small molecular weight dimeric TNF receptor 2 (dTNFR) constitutively expressed from plasmid DNA, delivered intramuscularly with electroporation, after disease onset in a collagen-induced arthritis model. Regulated promoters that enable the production of a transgene to be controlled are more suited to the application of gene therapy in the clinic. Regulated expression of dTNFR from the plasmid pGTRTT was also therapeutic in the mouse collagen-induced arthritis model when the inducer doxycycline was also administered, whereas no therapeutic effect was observed in the absence of doxycycline. The therapeutic effect of dTNFR expressed from a constitutive or regulated plasmid was dependent on the degree of disease activity at the time of DNA injection. The observations of this study are considered with regard to the disease model, the magnitude of gene regulation, and the path to clinical application.
arthritis; doxycycline; gene therapy; regulated expression; tumour necrosis factor-α
The interest in naturally arising regulatory T (TR) cells as a paradigm for maintaining immunological self-tolerance has undergone an explosive re-emergence in recent years. This renaissance was triggered by several key experimental observations and the identification of specific molecular markers that have enabled the isolation and experimental manipulation of these cells. Although their existence was once controversial, a large body of evidence now highlights the critical roles of TR cells in maintaining immunological self-tolerance. Furthermore, abnormality of natural TR cells can be a primary cause of autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases in humans.
CD25+CD4+; Foxp3; regulatory cells; self-tolerance; suppression
Some research evidence supports early aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using combination therapy with two or more disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) plus steroids, or even DMARDs plus an anti-TNF. By contrast, conservatively delayed DMARD monotherapy, given after non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have failed, has been criticised. However, recent long-term studies highlight the complexities in evaluating whether to abandon pyramidal treatment in favour of early DMARDs. Although patients given early DMARD therapy show short-term benefits, longer-term results show no prolonged clinical advantages from early DMARDs. By 5 years patients receiving early DMARDs had similar disease activity and comparable health assessment questionnaire scores to patients who received DMARDs later in their disease course. X-ray progression was persistent and virtually identical in both groups. These negative findings do not invalidate the case for early DMARD therapy, as it is gives sustained reductions in disease activity in the early years of treatment without excessive risks from adverse effects. However, early DMARDs alone do not adequately control RA in the longer term. This may require starting with very aggressive therapy or treating patients more aggressively after early DMARD therapy has been initiated.
Anti-Golgi complex antibodies (AGAs) are primarily associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjögren's syndrome. Here we report on the immunoreactivity of AGAs against five Golgi autoantigens (giantin, golgin-245, golgin-160, golgin-95/GM130, and golgin-97) and provide data from epitope mapping on the most common Golgi autoantigen, namely giantin. A total of 80 human sera containing AGAs, as defined by indirect immunofluorescence on HEp-2 cells, were analyzed by ELISA using recombinant autoantigens and immunoprecipitation. The proportion of AGA sera that reacted with the five Golgi autoantigens was correlated with the molecular mass of the Golgi antigens. Autoantibodies to giantin, the largest Golgi autoantigen, were the predominant AGAs, being found in 50% of the AGA sera. Epitope mapping of giantin was performed using six recombinant fragments spanning the entire protein. Antigiantin-positive sera with low titer autoantibodies recognized epitopes in the carboxyl-terminal fragments that are proximal to the Golgi membrane, whereas higher titer sera exhibited strong reactivity to amino-terminal and central domains that are likely to extend from the Golgi membrane into the cytoplasm. Our working hypothesis is that aberrantly expressed Golgi complex autoantigens may be released into the immune system when cells undergo lysis. By virtue of a carboxyl-terminal transmembrane domain, giantin is likely to be more stably associated with the cytoplasmic face of the Golgi complex than are other golgins, which are peripheral proteins. The stable association of giantin with the putative released Golgi complex may contribute to its preferential autoantigenicity.
anti-Golgi complex antibody; autoantibody; autoimmunity; cell death; epitope mapping
Autoimmune diseases are often characterized as clinical syndromes caused by the inappropriate activation of T or B cells resulting in systemic or organ-specific damage. However, studies support a role for the innate immune system, and in particular natural killer (NK) cells, in stimulating or suppressing autoimmunity. This review focuses on recent research elucidating a potential immunoregulatory role for NK cells in modulating T and B cell-mediated autoimmunity.
autoimmunity; immunoregulation; natural killer cells
This study was performed to investigate the relation between IgG autoantibodies against human C-reactive protein (anti-CRP) and disease activity measures in serial serum samples from 10 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), of whom four had active kidney involvement during the study period. The presence of anti-CRP was analysed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The cut-off for positive anti-CRP test was set at the 95th centile of 100 healthy blood donor sera. Specificity of the anti-CRP antibody binding was evaluated by preincubating patient sera with either native or monomeric CRP. Disease activity was determined by the SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI), serum levels of CRP, anti-DNA antibodies, complement components and blood cell counts. Of 50 serum samples, 20 (40%) contained antibodies reactive with monomeric CRP, and 7 of 10 patients were positive on at least one occasion during the study. All patients with active lupus nephritis were positive for anti-CRP at flare. Frequent correlations between anti-CRP levels and disease activity measures were observed in anti-CRP-positive individuals. Accumulated anti-CRP data from all patients were positively correlated with SLEDAI scores and anti-DNA antibody levels, whereas significant inverse relationships were noted for complement factors C1q, C3 and C4, and for lymphocyte counts. This study confirms the high prevalence of anti-CRP autoantibodies in SLE and that the antibody levels are correlated with clinical and laboratory disease activity measures. This indicates that anti-CRP antibodies might have biological functions of pathogenetic interest in SLE. Further prospective clinical studies and experimental studies on effects mediated by anti-CRP antibodies are warranted.
autoantibodies; C-reactive protein; disease activity; SLEDAI; systemic lupus erythematosus
Whatever the initiating factor of osteoarthritis (OA), the process ultimately unmasks the immunogenic determinants of chondrocytes, proteoglycans and collagens, which then triggers autoimmune reactions. Although the precise mechanism of the immune responses in the pathogenesis of OA requires further investigation, here I postulate that the presence of autoimmunity to cartilage components has an important role in the process of cartilage degradation in OA. Current studies strongly suggest that a immunoregulatory therapeutic strategy should be established.
cartilage; chemokines; components; immunological intervention; osteoarthritis
B lymphocytes play several critical roles in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. They are the source of the rheumatoid factors and anticitrullinated protein antibodies, which contribute to immune complex formation and complement activation in the joints. B cells are also very efficient antigen-presenting cells, and can contribute to T cell activation through expression of costimulatory molecules. B cells both respond to and produce the chemokines and cytokines that promote leukocyte infiltration into the joints, formation of ectopic lymphoid structures, angiogenesis, and synovial hyperplasia. The success of B cell depletion therapy in rheumatoid arthritis may depend on disruption of all these diverse functions.
antigen presentation; autoantibody; immune complexes; immunity; synovitis; tolerance
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, multisystem autoimmune disease characterized by the differentiation of short- and long-lived immunoglobulin secreting plasma cells that secrete pathogenic autoantibodies. Ectopic germinal centers and plasma cells secreting autoantibodies have been observed in lupus nephritis kidneys. Candidate genetic susceptibility loci for SLE include genes that affect differentiation and survival of plasma cells, such as those that influence activation, proliferation, cytokine and chemokine secretion/responsiveness, and apoptosis of the T and B cells that are involved in humoral immunity generated in germinal centers, as well as genes that are involved in presentation and clearance of apoptotic material and autoantigens by antigen presenting cells and other phagocytes. Emerging data have demonstrated that B lymphocytes are active participants in humoral immune responses that lead to T-dependent and T-independent differentiation of immunoglobulin-secreting plasma cells by homotypic CD154–CD40 interactions as well as continued stimulation by B cell activating factor through B cell maturation antigen, B cell activating factor receptor and transmembrane activater.
B cells; germinal centers; immunoglobulin-secreting cells; plasma cells; systemic lupus erythematosus
The chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab has been used extensively in the treatment of B cell malignancies, and more recently it has emerged as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), via selective B lymphocyte depletion. Experience in oncology shows that rituximab is well tolerated in a variety of settings, with mild-to-moderate infusion related reactions following the first infusion being the most common adverse event. Current data suggest that the safety profile of rituximab in patients with RA is similar to that in oncology, but that the adverse events are less frequent and less severe in patients with RA.
B cell depletion; oncology; rheumatoid arthritis; rituximab; safety
The 4th annual European League Against Rheumatism congress, held in Lisbon, 18–21 June 2003, had a record turnout of more than 8600 delegates and the abstract submissions increased to 2600. A heat wave and a somewhat substandard venue hampered some of the activities, notably the poster sessions. The scientific program was comprehensive and of a high class, and it was organized in 10–12 parallel sessions. The European League Against Rheumatism standing committees are expanding their activities and stimulating European cooperation (e.g. by creating databases and guidelines, and by starting research programs). The standing committees presented several areas where European cooperative work is in progress. Advances in drug therapy were a prominent theme and were well presented. Commercialism remains a problem for this meeting as for other similar large meetings, where satellite symposia surround the scientific program of the congress and often duplicate this.
American College of Rheumatology; European League Against Rheumatism; poster sessions; rheumatology congress; satellite symposia
Antibodies directed to citrullinated proteins (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide) are highly specific for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Recent data suggest that the antibodies may be involved in the disease process of RA and that several RA-associated genetic factors might be functionally linked to RA via modulation of the production of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies or citrullinated antigens.
anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide autoantibodies; citrullination; genetic susceptibility; peptidylarginine deiminase; rheumatoid arthritis
MRL/Mp-lpr/lpr (MRL/lpr) mice spontaneously develop systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)-like disease. The natural history of the pulmonary involvement and the underlying mechanism of leukocyte infiltration into the lungs of MRL/lpr mice and SLE patients remains elusive. We aimed to investigate the expression profiles of chemokines and chemokine receptors in the lung of the SLE-prone mouse. We examined the correlation between lung inflammation and expression of IP-10 (interferon-γ-inducible protein 10), a CXC chemokine, and TARC (thymus- and activation-regulated chemokine), a CC chemokine, in MRL/lpr mice, MRL/Mp-+/+ (MRL/+) mice, and C57BL/6 (B6) control mice. The extent of cell infiltration in the lung was assessed histopathologically. Reverse transcriptase PCR showed up-regulation of IP-10 mRNA expression in the lungs (P < 0.05) of MRL/lpr mice, in comparison with MRL/+ or B6 mice. The increase paralleled increased expression of a specific IP-10 receptor, CXCR3, and correlated with the degree of infiltration of mononuclear lymphocytes. In contrast, lung expression of TARC and its specific receptor, CCR4, were suppressed in MRL/lpr mice. Immunohistology showed that macrophage-like cells were the likely source of IP-10. Flow cytometric analyses revealed that the CXCR3-expressing cells were mainly infiltrating CD4 T cells and macrophages, which correlated with the degree of mononuclear lymphocyte infiltration. Recent data suggest that Th1 cells and Th1-derived cytokines play an important role in the development of SLE-like disease in MRL/lpr mice. Our results suggest that IP-10 expression in the lung is involved, through CXCR3, in the pathogenesis of pulmonary inflammation associated with migration of Th1 cells.
autoimmune disease; interferon-γ-inducible protein 10; Th1/Th2; CCR4; CXCR3
We investigated the role of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α, the second messenger C2-ceramide, and protein kinase R (PKR) in bovine articular cartilage degradation. Bovine articular cartilage explants were stimulated with C2-ceramide or TNF-α for 24 hours. To inhibit the activation of PKR, 2-aminopurine was added to duplicate cultures. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression and activation in the medium were analysed by gelatin zymography, proteoglycan release by the dimethylmethylene blue assay, and cell viability by the Cytotox 96® assay. C2-ceramide treatment of cartilage explants resulted in a significant release of both pro- and active MMP-2 into the medium. Small increases were also seen with TNF-α treatment. Incubation of explants with 2-aminopurine before TNF-α or C2-ceramide treatment resulted in a marked reduction in expression and activation of both MMP-2 and MMP-9. TNF-α and C2-ceramide significantly increased proteoglycan release into the medium, which was also inhibited by cotreatment with 2-aminopurine. A loss of cell viability was observed when explants were treated with TNF-α and C2-ceramide, which was found to be regulated by PKR. We have shown that C2-ceramide and TNF-α treatment of articular cartilage result in the increased synthesis and activation of MMPs, increased release of proteoglycan, and increased cell death. These effects are abrogated by treatment with the PKR inhibitor 2-aminopurine. Collectively, these results suggest a novel role for PKR in the synthesis and activation of MMPs and support our hypothesis that PKR and its activator, PACT, are implicated in the cartilage degradation that occurs in arthritic disease.
articular cartilage; ceramide; matrix metalloproteinase; PKR; TNF-α
The impact of diacerein, an effective cartilage targeted therapy that is used in patients with osteoarthritis, on the development and progression of chronic inflammatory arthritis was evaluated in a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) transgenic mouse model (Tg197). The response to diacerein at 2, 20, or 60 mg/kg daily, as well as the comparative effects of other antiarthritis drugs including dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg daily), methotrexate (1 mg/kg three times weekly) and an anti-TNF agent (5 mg/kg weekly), were assessed in the Tg197 mice. Treatment was initiated before the onset of arthritis and was continued for 5 weeks. A significant improvement in clinical symptoms was found in all three diacerein treated groups in comparison with untreated groups. Confirming these data, semiquantitative histopathologic analysis of the hind paws revealed a significant reduction not only in cartilage destruction but also in the extent of synovitis and bone erosion in diacerein treated groups in comparison with untreated groups. At the most effective dose tested (2 mg/kg daily), diacerein inhibited the onset of arthritis in 28% and attenuated the progression of arthritis in 35% of the Tg197 mice. Comparative analyses showed diacerein to be more potent than methotrexate but not as effective as dexamethasone or anti-TNF agents in suppressing the progression of the TNF mediated arthritis in this model. These results indicate that diacerein has a disease modifying effect on the onset and progression of TNF driven chronic inflammatory arthritis, suggesting that the prophylactic or therapeutic potential of diacerein in patients with RA should be further examined.
arthritis; diacerein; inflammation; transgenic; tumor necrosis factor
The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and possible efficacy of IFN-β-1a for the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Twenty-two patients with active RA were enrolled in a phase II randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 30 μg IFN-β-1a by weekly self-injection for 24 weeks. The primary outcome of the study was safety. Secondary outcomes included the proportion of patients achieving an American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20 response at 24 weeks. There were no significant differences in adverse events reported in the two groups. Fewer than 20% of patients in each arm of the study achieved an ACR 20 response at 24 weeks (P = 0.71). Sixty-nine percent of patients receiving IFN-β and 67% receiving placebo terminated the study early, most of them secondary to a perceived lack of efficacy. Overall, IFN-β-1a had a safety profile similar to that of placebo. There were no significant differences in the proportion of patients achieving an ACR 20 response between the two groups.
clinical trials; cytokines; interferon-β; rheumatoid arthritis; therapy
Inhibitors of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) diminish inflammatory arthritis in experimental animals. This may be effected by diminishing the production of inflammatory mediators, but this kinase is also part of the IL-1 signal pathway in articular chondrocytes. We determined the effect of p38 MAPK inhibition on proliferative and synthetic responses of lapine chondrocytes, cartilage, and synovial fibroblasts under basal and IL-1-activated conditions.
Basal and growth factor-stimulated proliferation and proteoglycan synthesis were determined in primary cultures of rabbit articular chondrocytes, first-passage synovial fibroblasts, and cartilage organ cultures. Studies were performed with or without p38 MAPK inhibitors, in IL-1-activated and control cultures. Media nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2 were assayed.
p38 MAPK inhibitors blunt chondrocyte and cartilage proteoglycan synthesis in response to transforming growth factor beta; responses to insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and fetal calf serum (FCS) are unaffected. p38 MAPK inhibitors significantly reverse inhibition of cartilage organ culture proteoglycan synthesis by IL-1. p38 MAPK inhibition potentiated basal, IGF-1-stimulated and FCS-stimulated chondrocyte proliferation, and reversed IL-1 inhibition of IGF-1-stimulated and FCS-stimulated DNA synthesis. Decreases in nitric oxide but not prostaglandin E2 synthesis in IL-1-activated chondrocytes treated with p38 MAPK inhibitors are partly responsible for this restoration of response. Synovial fibroblast proliferation is minimally affected by p38 MAPK inhibition.
p38 MAPK activity modulates chondrocyte proliferation under basal and IL-1-activated conditions. Inhibition of p38 MAPK enhances the ability of growth factors to overcome the inhibitory actions of IL-1 on proliferation, and thus could facilitate restoration and repair of diseased and damaged cartilage.
chondrocytes; interleukin-1; nitric oxide; p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase; transforming growth factor beta
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) has a complex, poorly characterized pathophysiology. Modeling of transcriptosome behavior in pathologic specimens using microarrays allows molecular dissection of complex autoimmune diseases. However, conventional analyses rely on identifying statistically significant differences in gene expression distributions between patients and controls. Since the principal aspects of disease pathophysiology vary significantly among patients, these analyses are biased. Genes with highly variable expression, those most likely to regulate and affect pathologic processes, are excluded from selection, as their distribution among healthy and affected individuals may overlap significantly. Here we describe a novel method for analyzing microarray data that assesses statistically significant changes in gene behavior at the population level. This method was applied to expression profiles of peripheral blood leukocytes from a group of children with polyarticular JRA and healthy control subjects. Results from this method are compared with those from a conventional analysis of differential gene expression and shown to identify discrete subsets of functionally related genes relevant to disease pathophysiology. These results reveal the complex action of the innate and adaptive immune responses in patients and specifically underscore the role of IFN-γ in disease pathophysiology. Discriminant function analysis of data from a cohort of patients treated with conventional therapy identified additional subsets of functionally related genes; the results may predict treatment outcomes. While data from only 9 patients and 12 healthy controls was used, this preliminary investigation of the inflammatory genomics of JRA illustrates the significant potential of utilizing complementary sets of bioinformatics tools to maximize the clinical relevance of microarray data from patients with autoimmune disease, even in small cohorts.
arthritis; autoimmunity; bioinformatics; juvenile rheumatoid arthritis; microarray
Inflamed synovium of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been associated with a T helper (Th)1 cytokine profile but the blood situation remains to be clarified. We studied the differential IFN-γ producing activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from RA patients (RA-PBMCs) and from healthy controls (H-PBMCs) in response to IL-12 and IL-18. RA-PBMCs had a decreased IFN-γ production in response to IL-12 and IL-18 when compared with H-PBMCs. RA-PBMCs activated with phytohemagglutinin and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate showed an increased sensitivity to IL-12 and IL-18, but still the RA-PBMC response was lower. IL-18 increased IL-12-stimulated IFN-γ production from RA synovium cells obtained after collagenase digestion more effectively than that of RA- or H-PBMCs. A specific inhibitor of IL-18 bioactivity, IL-18-binding protein (IL-18BP), down-regulated IL-12-induced IFN-γ production by RA- or H-PBMCs and had a remarkable effect on RA synovium cells. In conclusion, RA disease combines a polarized immune response with an active Th1 in inflamed joints and a reduced Th1 pattern in peripheral circulation.
interferon-γ; interleukin-12; interleukin-18; interleukin-18-binding protein; rheumatoid arthritis
The presence of anti-α-fodrin autoantibodies has been reported to be a highly specific and sensitive test for the diagnosis of Sjögren's syndrome (SjS). We looked (in Nijmegen) for anti-α-fodrin, anti-Ro60, and anti-La autoantibodies in a cohort of 51 patients with rheumatic diseases (primary SjS , secondary SjS , rheumatoid arthritis [RA] , systemic lupus erythematosus [SLE] , and scleroderma ) and in 28 healthy subjects, using ELISA, immunoblotting, and immunoprecipitation. The same samples were analyzed with an alternative anti-α-fodrin ELISA in Hanover. The Nijmegen ELISA of the sera from primary SjS showed sensitivities of 43% and 48% for IgA- and IgG-type anti-α-fodrin antibodies, respectively. The Hanover ELISA showed sensitivities of 38% and 10% for IgA- and IgG-type anti-α-fodrin antibodies, respectively. The ELISAs for α-fodrin showed six (Nijmegen) and four (Hanover) anti-α-fodrin-positive RA sera. IgA and IgG anti-fodrin antibodies were also present in four patients with secondary SjS. The sensitivities of Ro60 and La-antibodies in the Nijmegen ELISA were 67% and 62%, respectively. Unlike anti-α-fodrin antibodies, all anti-Ro60 and anti-La positive sera could be confirmed by immunoblotting or RNA immunoprecipitation. Thus, anti-Ro and anti-La autoantibodies were more sensitive than anti-α-fodrin autoantibodies in ELISA and were more frequently confirmed by other techniques. Anti-La antibodies appear to be more disease-specific than anti-α-fodrin antibodies, which are also found in RA sera. Therefore, the measurement of anti-α-fodrin autoantibodies does not add much to the diagnosis of Sjögren's syndrome.
alpha-fodrin; antibody; ELISA; sensitivity; Sjögren
Endogenous opioid peptides have an essential role in the intrinsic modulation and control of inflammatory pain, which could be therapeutically useful. In this study, we established a muscular electroporation method for the gene transfer of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) in vivo and investigated its effect on inflammatory pain in a rat model of rheumatoid arthritis. The gene encoding human POMC was inserted into a modified pCMV plasmid, and 0–200 μg of the plasmid-POMC DNA construct was transferred into the tibialis anterior muscle of rats treated with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) with or without POMC gene transfer by the electroporation method. The safety and efficiency of the gene transfer was assessed with the following parameters: thermal hyperalgesia, serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and endorphin levels, paw swelling and muscle endorphin levels at 1, 2 and 3 weeks after electroporation. Serum ACTH and endorphin levels of the group into which the gene encoding POMC had been transferred were increased to about 13–14-fold those of the normal control. These levels peaked 1 week after electroporation and significantly decreased 2 weeks after electroporation. Rats that had received the gene encoding POMC had less thermal hypersensitivity and paw swelling than the non-gene-transferred group at days 3, 5 and 7 after injection with CFA. Our promising results showed that transfer of the gene encoding POMC by electroporation is a new and effective method for its expression in vivo, and the analgesic effects of POMC cDNA with electroporation in a rat model of rheumatoid arthritis are reversed by naloxone.
electroporation; gene delivery; pro-opiomelanocortin; RT–PCR; skeletal muscle
It is widely accepted that cell-mediated immune functions decline with age, rendering an individual more susceptible to infection and possibly cancer, as well as to age-associated autoimmune diseases. The exact causes of T-cell functional decline are not known. One possible cause could be the development of defects in the transduction of mitogenic signals following TCR stimulation. This T-cell hyporesponsiveness due to defects of signalling through the TCR either from healthy elderly subjects or from individuals with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus results in an impaired ability to mount efficient immune responses and to maintain responsiveness to foreign antigens. This implies that a high proportion of autoreactive T cells might accumulate either intrathymically or in the periphery. T-cell anergy and differential TCR signalling could thus also be key players in the disruption of tolerance and the onset of autoimmune diseases. The increasing number of the elderly may lead to an increase of clinically important autoimmune diseases. We will review the signal transduction changes through the TCR–CD3 complex in T lymphocytes from healthy elderly subjects, which result in a modification of the activation of transcription factors involved in IL-2 gene expression leading to decreased IL-2 production. The putative contribution of altered T-cell signalling with ageing in the development of autoimmune diseases will be also discussed.
ageing; arthritis; autoimmunity; lipid rafts; T-cell receptor signalling
Recent advances in the study of global patterns of gene expression with the use of microarray technology, coupled with data analysis using sophisticated statistical algorithms, have provided new insights into pathogenic mechanisms of disease. Complementary and reproducible data from multiple laboratories have documented the feasibility of analysis of heterogeneous populations of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with rheumatic diseases through use of this powerful technology. Although some patterns of gene expression, including increased expression of immune system cell surface activation molecules, confirm previous data obtained with other techniques, some novel genes that are differentially expressed have been identified. Most interesting is the dominant pattern of interferon-induced gene expression detected among blood mononuclear cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and juvenile dermatomyositis. These data are consistent with longstanding observations indicating increased circulating interferon-α in the blood of patients with active lupus, but draw attention to the dominance of the interferon pathway in the hierarchy of gene expression pathways implicated in systemic autoimmunity.
gene expression; interferon; microarray; statistical algorithms; systemic lupus erythematosus