Objective: In synovial fluid (SF) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), neutrophils are exposed to proinflammatory mediators endowed with either anti-apoptotic or pro-apoptotic properties. We investigated neutrophil apoptosis in the presence of SF from 11 RA patients.
Methods: SF was obtained from affected knees of 11 patients with RA. Human neutrophil apoptosis was evaluated by light microscopic examination and flow-cytometric analysis of annexin V binding. Immune complex-induced neutrophil activation was evaluated as superoxide anion production. Adenosine levels in SF were detected by chromatographic analysis and cytokine levels were studied by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Spontaneous and immune complex-triggered neutrophil apoptosis was reduced by SF from eight out of 11 patients. Immune complex-induced neutrophil activation was unaffected by SF. The cytokines tested had no role in promoting the anti-apoptotic activity of SF. On the contrary, the anti-apoptotic activity of SF was found to depend on the presence of adenosine. Adenosine levels detected in the various samples of SF correlated significantly with the anti-apoptotic activity of the fluids and with the number of apoptotic neutrophils detected in the articular exudate.
Conclusion: The microenvironment of rheumatoid SF is a proinflammatory milieu responsible for the in loco persistence of activated and long-surviving neutrophils. Adenosine plays a crucial role in this phenomenon, which is related to anti-apoptotic activity.