Endothelial cells and the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis in humans and streptococcal cell wall arthritis in Lewis rats

J Cell Biochem. 1991 Feb;45(2):162-6. doi: 10.1002/jcb.240450207.


Endothelial cells play a fundamental role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory arthritis in humans such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as well as experimental animal models such as streptococcal cell wall (SCW) arthritis in Lewis (LEW/N) rats. This review summarizes data in support of this concept. The earliest apparent abnormalities in synovial tissues of patients with RA and Lewis rats with SCW arthritis appear to reflect microvascular endothelial cell activation or injury. At the molecular level, the abnormalities include enhanced expression by endothelial cells of activation markers such as class II major histocompatibility complex antigens, phosphotyrosine, leukocyte adhesion molecules, oncoproteins such as c-Fos and c-Myc, and metalloproteinases such as collagenase and transin/stromelysin. The development of severe, chronic, destructive arthritis is dependent upon thymic-derived lymphocytes and is accompanied by tumorlike proliferation of cells in the synovial connective tissue stroma (blood vessels and fibroblastlike cells), which results in resorptive destruction of bone and cartilage. Multiple criteria support the analogy to a neoplastic process. Paracrine and autocrine factors such as interleukin-1 (IL-1), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), and heparin-binding fibroblast growth factors (HBGF, FGF) appear to play important roles in the generation of these lesions. Finally, in addition to the autocrine and paracrine regulatory factors, neuroendocrine factors, particularly the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, appear to be involved in the counterregulation of the inflammatory process. The counterregulatory effects are mediated, in part, by inhibition of endothelial cell activation by corticosteroids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Infectious / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Infectious / pathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / physiology
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Wall
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Cytokines