Tocilizumab improves the proatherothrombotic profile of rheumatoid arthritis patients modulating endothelial dysfunction, NETosis, and inflammation

Transl Res. 2017 May;183:87-103. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2016.12.003. Epub 2016 Dec 9.


Tocilizumab (TCZ) is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the changes that occurred after TCZ therapy on endothelial dysfunction, monocyte activity, NETosis, and oxidative stress, the principal effectors of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, have not been analyzed yet. A total of 20 RA patients received 162 mg per week subcutaneous TCZ for 6 months. Endothelial function was measured through postocclusive hyperemia using Laser Doppler. Oxidative stress markers in monocytes and neutrophils were analyzed by flow cytometry. NETosis was measured through SYTOX staining of DNA fibers and the expression of myeloperoxidase and neutrophil elastase. Percentage of low-density granulocytes was analyzed through flow cytometry. Gene expression and phosphorylation of intracellular pathways was analyzed in monocytes. TCZ improved endothelial function and decreased oxidative stress in RA leukocytes. Percentage of low-density granulocytes and NETosis generation were reduced. The proinflammatory and prothrombotic status of RA monocytes was also reversed through a modulation of specific intracellular pathways. All these results were recapitulated after in vitro treatment with TCZ of monocytes and neutrophils purified from RA patients and cocultured with endothelial cells. TCZ might reduce the proatherothrombotic profile in RA patients through the restoration of the endothelial function, oxidative stress reduction, inhibition of monocytes' prothrombotic and inflammatory profile, and abridged NETosis generation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Granulocytes
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Male
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Thrombosis / prevention & control*
  • Umbilical Veins / cytology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • RNA
  • tocilizumab