Interferon signals and monocytic sensitization of the interferon-γ signaling pathway in the peripheral blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Feb;64(2):400-8. doi: 10.1002/art.33347.


Objective: Both type I interferons (IFNα and IFNβ) and type II IFN (IFNγ) signal via pSTAT-1. Immunohistochemistry and the gene expression signatures of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial tissue suggest an activated IFN/STAT-1 signaling pathway. The aim of this study was to determine the systemic activity of the IFN/STAT-1 signaling pathway in the peripheral blood cells of patients with RA.

Methods: Fluorocytometry or quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to measure the expression of STAT-1, pSTAT-1, and IFN-inducible genes (monokine induced by interferon-γ [MIG], interferon-γ-inducible protein 10 [IP-10], and 2',5'-oligoadenylate synthetase [OAS]) in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and purified CD14+ peripheral blood monocytes of patients with RA and healthy control subjects. PBMCs were also incubated for 48 hours with IFNs and several other cytokines to investigate influences on STAT-1 levels. To examine the significance of STAT-1 activation in RA monocytes after stimulation with IFNγ, the expression of pSTAT-1 and of the IFNγ-inducible chemokine MIG was measured using fluorocytometry.

Results: Levels of STAT-1 were significantly increased in peripheral lymphocytes and monocytes from patients with RA compared with those from healthy control subjects. STAT-1 levels correlated well with RA disease activity, as measured by the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints and the Clinical Disease Activity Index. Furthermore, STAT-1 messenger RNA expression in RA CD14+ monocytes correlated with the expression of other IFN-target genes, such as IP-10, OAS, or MIG. In RA PBMCs, STAT-1 expression was increased not only by IFNs but also by tumor necrosis factor. RA monocytes demonstrated a considerably higher increase in pSTAT-1 and MIG levels upon IFNγ stimulation when compared with monocytes from control subjects, indicating that RA monocytes are more sensitive to IFNγ stimulation.

Conclusion: In addition to supporting the role of IFNs in systemic proinflammatory activity, the results of this study further suggest preactivation of the IFNγ/STAT-1 signaling pathway, especially in RA monocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • Interferon-gamma