Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation in joints, associated with synovial hyperplasia and with bone and cartilage destruction. Although the primacy of T cell-related events early in the disease continues to be debated, there is strong evidence that autoantigen recognition by specific T cells is crucial to the pathophysiology of rheumatoid synovitis. In addition, T cells are key components of the immune cell infiltrate detected in the joints of RA patients. Initial analysis of the cytokines released into the synovial membrane showed an imbalance, with a predominance of proinflammatory mediators, indicating a deleterious effect of Th1 T cells. There is nonetheless evidence that Th17 cells also play an important role in RA. T cells migrate from the bloodstream to the synovial tissue via their interactions with the endothelial cells that line synovial postcapillary venules. At this stage, selectins, integrins, and chemokines have a central role in blood cell invasion of synovial tissue, and therefore in the intensity of the inflammatory response. In this review, we will focus on the mechanisms involved in T cell attraction to the joint, the proteins involved in their extravasation from blood vessels, and the signaling pathways activated. Knowledge of these processes will lead to a better understanding of the mechanism by which the systemic immune response causes local joint disorders and will help to provide a molecular basis for therapeutic strategies.
Keywords: cell migration; chemokines; cytokines; inflammation; rheumatoid arthritis.