Introduction: Comparative data on synovial cell infiltrate and cytokine levels in anti citrullinated peptide/protein antibody (ACPA)-positive and ACPA negative rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are scarce. Our aim was to analyze synovial cell infiltrate and synovial fluid (SF) levels of cytokines in patients with RA according to the presence or absence of ACPA in serum.
Methods: A cross-sectional study in a single center including consecutive RA patients was performed. Patients were defined as 'ACPA negative' if serum was negative to two different ACPAs [second generation commercial anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (CCP2) and chimeric fibrin/filaggrin citrullinated antibodies]. Parallel synovial tissue (ST) biopsies and SF were obtained by knee arthroscopy. Synovial cell infiltrate and endothelial cells were analyzed by immunohistochemistry and SF levels of Th1, Th2, Th17 and pro-inflammatory cytokines by Quantibody(R) Human Array.
Results: A total of 83 patients underwent arthroscopy, with a mean age of 55.9 ± 12 years, and mean disease duration of 45 months (interquartile range, IQR 10.8 to 122). 62% were female and 77% were ACPA positive. No significant differences were found in clinical variables, acute phase reactants, synovial cell infiltrate or lymphoid neogenesis (LN) between ACPA positive and negative patients. However ACPA positive patients had significantly higher levels of IL-1β, IL-10, IL-17 F and CC chemokine ligand 20 (CCL-20) than ACPA negative patients.
Conclusions: In our cohort of patients with RA no significant differences were found in synovial cell infiltrate or synovial LN according to ACPA status. However, ACPA positive patients had higher levels of T-cell derived and pro-inflammatory cytokines than ACPA negative patients. As systemic and local inflammation was similar in the two groups, these findings support a distinct synovial physiopathology.