Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by chronic inflammation of multiple joints. Large numbers of T cells, which produce type 1 cytokines, infiltrate into RA synovium. Chemokines and chemokine receptors are considered to contribute to the T cell infiltration. In this study, we examined the role of CX3CL1/fractalkine and its receptor CX3C chemokine receptor 1 (CX3CR1) in the T cell migration into RA synovium.
Methods: Using flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we analyzed CX3CR1 expression by peripheral blood and synovial T cells, and CX3CL1 expression in synovium from patients with RA. Cytokine and cytotoxic molecule expression by CX3CR1-positive T cells was analyzed by flow cytometry.
Results: CX3CR1 expression by peripheral CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was up-regulated in RA patients. The peripheral CD4+ and CD8+ T cells expressing CX3CR1 predominantly produced interferon-gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha, and expressed cytotoxic molecules such as granzyme A and perforin. Furthermore, CX3CR1+,CD3+ T cells infiltrated into RA synovium. CX3CL1, the unique ligand of CX3CR1, was expressed by endothelial cells and synoviocytes in RA synovium, but not in osteoarthritis synovium.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the interactions of CX3CL1 and CX3CR1 might contribute to the accumulation of CX3CR1+ T cells expressing type 1 cytokines and possessing cytotoxic granules in RA synovium.