Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a multifactorial and polygenic immune-mediated disease, the pathogenesis of which involves different cell types. T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, endothelial cells, fibroblasts and osteoclasts have all been implicated in mediating the production of autoantibodies, proinflammatory cytokines and ultimately bone erosions. Cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 immunoglobulin fusion protein (CTLA-4-Ig, abatacept) is a unique biologic agent targeting the co-stimulatory molecules CD80/CD86, and is indicated for the treatment of moderate-to-severe RA in patients who have had an inadequate response to one or more disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, including methotrexate or anti-tumor necrosis factor agents. There is a growing body of evidence that, through selective modulation of the CD80/CD86 co-stimulatory molecules expressed by a variety of activated cell types, CTLA-4-Ig may inhibit the pathogenic RA process at several levels, both directly and indirectly. Here, we provide an overview of recent mechanistic studies of the action of CTLA-4-Ig on different cell types involved in mediating inflammation and joint damage in RA.
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