Objective: We previously showed that CD13/aminopeptidase N (EC 184.108.40.206) induces chemotactic migration of T lymphocytes by its enzymatic activity. In this study, we examined the role of CD13/aminopeptidase N in lymphocyte involvement in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Synovial fluids were obtained from 27 RA patients and 6 osteoarthritis (OA) patients. Synovial tissue specimens were obtained from 3 RA patients and 3 OA patients. Protease activity of aminopeptidase in synovial fluids and synovial fibroblasts was assayed fluorometrically using the specific substrate. Expression of CD13/aminopeptidase N in synovial fibroblasts was determined by flow cytometry analyses, Western blotting, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Results: The mean value of aminopeptidase activity in synovial fluid samples from RA patients was significantly higher than that in samples from OA patients. Increased enzymatic activity of aminopeptidase was detected on synovial fibroblasts from RA patients compared with those from OA patients. Flow cytometry showed that the expression of CD13/aminopeptidase N on synovial fibroblasts from RA patients was higher than the expression on synovial fibroblasts from OA patients, and Western blots and RT-PCR showed that synovial fibroblasts from RA patients contained a greater amount of CD13/aminopeptidase N. The activity of CD13/aminopeptidase N correlated significantly with lymphocyte counts in synovial fluids from RA patients. Synovial fluids from RA patients in which high aminopeptidase activity was detected contained considerable chemotactic activity for lymphocytes, and bestatin, a specific inhibitor of aminopeptidases, partially inhibited the chemotactic activity.
Conclusion: CD13/aminopeptidase N may participate in the mechanism of lymphocyte involvement in inflamed joints of RA patients as a lymphocyte chemoattractant.