Objective: To investigate A(1), A(2A), A(2B), and A(3) adenosine receptors in lymphocytes and neutrophils from patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA) as well as from RA patients treated with methotrexate (MTX) or anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (anti-TNFalpha), as compared with those in age-matched healthy controls, and to examine correlations between the status and functionality of adenosine receptors and TNFalpha release and NF-kappaB activation.
Methods: Adenosine receptors were analyzed by saturation binding assays and Western blot analyses. We investigated the potency of typical A(2A) and A(3) agonists in the production of cAMP in control subjects, ERA patients, and RA patients treated with MTX or anti-TNFalpha. In a separate cohort of RA patients, TNFalpha release and NF-kappaB activation were evaluated in plasma and nuclear extracts, respectively.
Results: In ERA patients, we found a high density and altered functionality of A(2A) and A(3) receptors. The binding and functional parameters of A(2A) and A(3) receptors normalized after anti-TNFalpha, but not MTX, treatment. TNFalpha release was increased in ERA patients and in MTX-treated RA patients, whereas in anti-TNFalpha-treated RA patients, release was comparable to that in the controls. NF-kappaB activation was elevated in ERA patients and in MTX-treated RA patients. Anti-TNFalpha treatment mediated decreased levels of NF-kappaB activation.
Conclusion: A(2A) and A(3) receptor up-regulation in ERA patients and in MTX-treated RA patients was associated with high levels of TNFalpha and NF-kappaB activation. Treatment with anti-TNFalpha normalized A(2A) and A(3) receptor expression and functionality. This new evidence of A(2A) and A(3) receptor involvement opens the possibility of exploiting their potential role in human diseases characterized by a marked inflammatory component.