The Presumed Hyporesponsive Behavior of Rheumatoid Arthritis T Lymphocytes Can Be Attributed to Spontaneous Ex Vivo Apoptosis rather than Defects in T Cell Receptor Signaling

Joana R. F. Abreu, Aleksander M. Grabiec, Sarah Krausz, René Spijker, Tomasz Burakowski, Wlodzimierz Maslinski, Eric Eldering, Paul P. Tak, Kris A. Reedquist

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Genetic associations and the clinical success of compounds targeting TCR costimulatory proteins suggest an active role for TCR signaling in the initiation and perpetuation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Paradoxically, T cells isolated from affected joints in RA show impaired proliferative and cytokine responses following stimulation with mitogens and recall Ags attributed in part to chronic T cell exposure to oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, it is uncertain how local autoreactive TCR signaling contributes to pathology in established RA. Using single-cell analysis, we show that in contrast to results obtained in bulk culture assays, T cells from the synovial fluid of RA patients proliferate and produce cytokines (IL-2, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma) as efficiently, if not more so, than T cells isolated from healthy donors and RA patient peripheral blood following TCR/CD28 stimulation. RA synovial fluid T cell hyporesponsiveness observed in bulk cultures can be attributed to spontaneous apoptosis ex vivo, which is associated with altered ratios of proapoptotic Noxa and anti-apoptotic Mcl-1 expression. The absence of RA synovial T cell proliferation and cytokine production in situ, despite the capacity of these cells to support productive TCR signaling, suggests that T cells contribute to local pathology in established RA by TCR-independent mechanisms. The Journal of Immunology, 2009, 183: 621-630
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-630
JournalJournal of immunology (Baltimore, Md.
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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