Synovial macrophages play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of chronic autoimmune arthritis by contributing to local inflammation and tissue damage and are therefore a primary target for therapeutic intervention. The aim of the present study was to investigate in more detail the relative contribution of different synovial macrophage subsets with potentially different inflammatory or anti-inflammatory functions by analysing the two most frequent forms of human autoimmune arthritis, spondyloarthropathy (SpA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both infiltrating macrophages from peripheral blood expressing myeloid-related proteins (MRP) 8 and 14, and resident tissue macrophages expressing CD163 were abundant in inflamed synovium. Whereas the global number of synovial macrophages was similar in both diseases, infiltrating macrophages were increased in the RA lining layer in contrast with resident tissue macrophages, which were more frequently observed in SpA. Soluble MRP8/MRP14 complexes, which were secreted locally in the joint during the infiltration process, were increased in the serum of arthritis patients and, in contrast with soluble CD163 shed from resident tissue macrophages, correlated well with global inflammatory parameters. Treatment in vivo with anti-TNFalpha had a rapid and pronounced effect on the infiltration of MRP-positive macrophages into tissues, as evidenced by histopathological analysis and serum MRP8/MRP14 levels. Taken together, these data support an important role for infiltrating versus resident tissue macrophages in human autoimmune synovitis and indicate that macrophage products such as soluble MRP8/MRP14 complexes are valuable biomarkers for the experimental and clinical monitoring of specific disease mechanisms in vivo.
2005 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland