Objective: The present study was conducted to investigate whether the serum levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6), soluble IL-2 receptor (sIL-2R) and sIL-6R are associated with the morphological appearance of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Using the ELISA technique we measured the IL-6, sIL-2R and sIL-6R concentrations in the serum of 34 patients with RA and 28 patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Histological analysis of synovial samples distinguished 2 types of rheumatoid synovitis. Twenty-one RA specimens presented diffuse infiltrates of mononuclear cells without any specific microanatomical organization. In remaining 13 samples the formation of lymphocytic follicles with germinal center-like structures was found.
Results: Serum levels of IL-6, sIL-2R and sIL-6R were elevated in patients with RA compared to the OA control group (p < 0.001, p < 0.001 and p < 0.05 respectively). Concentrations of IL-6 and sIL-2R were highest in the serum of RA patients with follicular synovitis in comparison to patients with diffuse synovitis (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01 respectively) and could distinguish RA patients with these two histological variants of the disease. Serum levels of IL-6 and sIL-2R correlated with markers of disease activity such as ESR and CRP levels. In addition, the clinical data suggest a more severe disease among RA patients with follicular synovitis.
Conclusion: Distinct histological types of rheumatoid synovitis associated with unique serum concentrations of IL-6 and sIL-2R reflect levels of disease activity and confirm the concept of RA heterogeneity.