The synovial membrane in osteoarthritis (OA) often exhibits inflammatory infiltrates, but the role of T cells in these infiltrates is not known, T-cell activation antigens were analyzed by immunohistochemistry, and T-cell cytokine transcripts were measured by competitive PCR in synovial membranes from patients with OA and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Lymphoid cell aggregates, containing primarily CD3+ T lymphocytes, were found in 65% of patients with OA. Mononuclear cells expressing the activation antigens CD69, CD25, CD38, CD43, CD45RO, and HLA class II were present in both patient groups, although in higher numbers in patients with RA. Interleukin 2 (IL-2) transcripts were found in 10 of 18 patients with OA versus 12 of 13 patients with RA (P = 0.03). Gamma interferon (IFN-γ) transcripts were detected in 9 of 18 patients with OA versus 10 of 13 patients with RA (not significant), whereas IL-10 transcripts were found in nearly all patients, IL-4 and IL-5 were not detected in any patients. The levels of IFN-γ and IL-2 transcripts, normalized for T-cell number equivalents, were not statistically different between OA and RA, but the levels of IFN-γ, normalized for total cell number equivalents, were lower in OA than in RA (P = 0.01). Synovial membranes that expressed IL-2 and IFN-γ transcripts were more likely to have heavier infiltrations of T cells and cells bearing activation markers than synovial membranes that did not express these cytokines. The presence of activated T cells and TH1 cytokine transcripts in chronic joint lesions of patients with OA suggests that T cells contribute to chronic inflammation in a large proportion of these patients.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Microbiology (medical)