The role of T cells in rheumatoid arthritis: new subsets and new targets

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2007 May;19(3):284-8. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e32805e87e0.


Purpose of review: To update the knowledge on the contribution of T cells in rheumatoid arthritis, a selection of publications between the end of 2005 and 2006 were reviewed.

Recent findings: Th17 cells driven by TGF-beta, IL-1, IL-6 and IL-23 challenge previous concepts of 'Th1'-induced rheumatoid arthritis. Other advancements in IL-17 studies include novel concepts on the IL-17 receptor and additional information on the mechanism of IL-17-induced effects. Regulatory T cells fail to control disease due to defective function secondary to the synovial inflammatory milieu. The predominance of pathogenic effector T cells in the presence of impaired T-cell regulatory mechanisms may therefore contribute to rheumatoid arthritis chronicity. Cellular therapies attempt to restore the balance that includes production of immunoregulatory cytokines such as IL-4 or IL-10. Better T-cell-targeted therapies controlling costimulation are in place with purported increased efficacy and durability, including anti-tumour necrosis factor nonresponders. Additional direct and indirect T-cell approaches include antagonism of T-cell-derived cytokines, T-cell activation or B-cell ablation.

Summary: A renewed interest in T cells comes from the discovery of Th17 in rheumatoid arthritis and from novel findings on the role of T cells in rheumatoid arthritis induction, chronicity and relapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / immunology
  • Arthritis, Experimental / therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Interleukin-17
  • Interferon-gamma