Fibroblast-like synoviocytes from rheumatoid arthritis patients have intrinsic properties of follicular dendritic cells

E. Lindhout, M. van Eijk, M. van Pel, J. Lindeman, H. J. Dinant, C. de Groot

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The production of IgG rheumatoid factors in the inflamed synovium of many patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) implies that local sites exist where plasma cell precursors undergo isotype switching and affinity maturation by somatic mutation and selection. Lymphonodular infiltrates of the synovium-containing germinal centers (GCs), are candidates to fulfill such function in the rheumatoid patient. It has been suggested that these GCs are organized around, obviously ectopic, follicular dendritic cells (FDCs). The present study attempts to find out whether these putative FDCs 1) are specific for RA, 2) have the same phenotype and functional capacity as FDCs in lymphoid organs, and 3) may locally differentiate from fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS). Synovial biopsies from patients with RA versus non-RA, yet arthritic backgrounds, were compared. Cells with the FDC phenotype were found in both RA and non-RA tissues as well as in single cell suspensions thereof. When FLS were cultured in vitro, part of these cell lines could be induced with IL-1beta and TNF-alpha to express the FDC phenotype, irrespective of their RA or non-RA background. By contrast, the FDC function, i.e., stable binding of GC B cells and switching off the apoptotic machinery in B cells, appeared to be the prerogative of RA-derived FLS only. The present data indicate that FDC function of FLS in RA patients is intrinsic and support the idea that synovial fibroblast-like cells have undergone some differentiation process that is unique for this disease
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5949-5956
JournalJournal of immunology (Baltimore, Md.
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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