The N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor antagonist memantine ameliorates and delays the development of arthritis by enhancing regulatory T cells

Neurosignals. 2012;20(2):61-71. doi: 10.1159/000329551. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


The neuroendocrine impact on rheumatoid arthritis is not yet fully described although numerous neurotransmitters are shown to act as inflammatory modulators. One of these is the excitatory transmitter glutamate (Glu). In this study, the influence of the Glu receptor (GluR)-mediated effects on collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) was investigated. CIA was induced in DBA/1 mice by immunization with chicken collagen type II (CII). Mice were exposed to the following GluR antagonists: group 1, the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor channel blocker memantine; group 2, the metabotropic GluR antagonist AIDA, and group 3, the excitatory amino acid receptor antagonist kynurenic acid (KA). Arthritis was evaluated clinically and histologically and compared to PBS-treated controls. The effects of treatment on T cell populations and the levels of anti-CII and anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies were evaluated. Memantine treatment significantly improved the course of CIA, reducing synovitis (p = 0.007) and the frequency of erosions (p = 0.007). Memantine treatment up-regulated the expression of Foxp3 in spleen CD4+ T cells followed by an increase in CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. The other GluR antagonists, AIDA and KA, had no effect on CIA. These results demonstrate that blockade of the NMDA receptor channel with memantine delays and attenuates the development of arthritis, probably by promoting the development of regulatory T lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Experimental / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Experimental / pathology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Collagen Type II / immunology
  • Male
  • Memantine / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Collagen Type II
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Memantine