Objective: Previous studies have suggested a relationship between anticyclic citrullinated protein (CCP) levels and development of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, a limited number of studies have demonstrated an involvement of anti-CCPs in those processes. This study was aimed to define the specific role of these auto-antibodies in the pro-oxidative, inflammatory, and proatherogenic profile observed in leukocytes from RA patients.
Approach and results: Seventy-five RA patients and 31 healthy donors were enrolled. Carotid intima media thickness was evaluated as atherosclerosis marker. Several procoagulant and inflammatory factors, leukocyte activation, and oxidative stress markers were analyzed in plasma and leukocyte subsets. Anti-CCPs were purified from plasma of RA patients, and in vitro treatment of healthy leukocytes was conducted. High titers of anti-CCPs were associated to altered expression of prothrombotic and inflammatory markers, high oxidative stress, and pathological carotid intima media thickness in RA patients. Notably, gene expression analysis showed that lymphocytes were major players in altered inflammatory profile, monocytes were responsible for the protrombotic and atherogenic status, and neutrophils mainly displayed a pro-oxidative feature. In vitro treatment with purified anti-CCPs fully recapitulated that pathogenic profile, promoting the activation of leukocytes.
Conclusions: Anti-CCPs are key players in the inflammatory and proatherogenic status of RA patients. The effects are specific of the immune cell targeted, promoting overexpression of thrombotic, inflammatory, and pro-oxidative markers in monocytes; pro-oxidative status in neutrophils; and proinflammatory profile in lymphocytes. Targeting these autoantibodies would be an excellent strategy to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease in RA.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease; inflammation; leukocytes; rheumatoid arthritis.
© 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.