Rheumatoid synovium is enriched in CD45RBdim mature memory T cells that are potent helpers for B cell differentiation

Arthritis Rheum. 1992 Dec;35(12):1455-65. doi: 10.1002/art.1780351209.


Objective: To delineate the phenotype and function of synovial T cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: T cells from normal subjects or from RA peripheral blood (PB), synovial fluid (SF), or synovial tissue (ST) were analyzed phenotypically and functionally.

Results: RA SF and ST T cells were found to be markedly enriched in CD45RAdim, CD45RO+, CD45RBdim mature memory cells, whereas in the PB, CD45RAbright naive T cells were more frequent than CD45RO+ memory T cells, and only a minority were CD45RBdim. SF and ST T cells proliferated less well and produced less interleukin-2 in response to mitogenic stimuli than did PB T cells. However, synovial T cells effectively promoted the production of Ig from normal B cells. Moreover, PB and synovial T cells differed in their capacity to down-regulate immunoglobulin production. Anti-CD3-stimulated PB T cells suppressed Ig production unless their proliferation was prevented with mitomycin C. In contrast, synovial T cells were potent helpers of B cell Ig production regardless of antecedent treatment with mitomycin C. To examine the relationship between the CD45RBdim phenotype and B cell help, CD45RBdim T cells were sorted from PB. As opposed to the findings with synovial T cells, suppression by control PB CD45RBdim T cells was observed, but only when large numbers were employed. B cell Ig production was enhanced after treatment of PB CD45RBdim T cells with mitomycin C. In contrast, healthy control sorted CD45RBbright or sorted CD4+, CD45RO+, CD45RBbright T cells did not support Ig secretion. After treatment with mitomycin C, both of these populations were more effective helpers of Ig production.

Conclusion: RA synovium is enriched in differentiated CD45RBdim memory T cells with potent helper activity and diminished capacity to down-regulate B cells, strongly implying an active role for these cells in the production of Ig in the synovium, and thus in the propagation of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / metabolism
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitogens / pharmacology
  • Mitomycin / pharmacology
  • Phenotype
  • Synovial Fluid / cytology
  • Synovial Fluid / immunology
  • Synovial Membrane / immunology
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology*


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Interleukin-2
  • Mitogens
  • Mitomycin
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens