The inflammatory CD40-CD40L pathway is implicated in various autoimmune diseases, but the activity status of this pathway in various stages of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) progression is unknown. In this study, we used gene signatures of CD40L stimulation derived from human immature dendritic cells and naive B cells to assess the expression of CD40-downstream genes in synovial tissues from anti-citrullinated protein Ab-positive arthralgia, undifferentiated arthritis (UA), early RA, and established RA cohorts in comparison with healthy donors. Interestingly, the expression of CD40LG and active full-length CD40 was increased in the disease tissues, whereas that of a dominant-negative CD40 isoform was decreased. Gene set variation analysis revealed that CD40L-responsive genes in immature dendritic cells and naive B cells were significantly enriched in synovial tissues from UA, early RA, and established RA patients. Additionally, CD40L-induced naive B cell genes were also significantly enriched in synovial tissues from arthralgia patients. In our efforts to characterize downstream mediators of CD40L signaling, we have identified GPR120 and KDM6B as novel components of the pathway. In conclusion, our data suggest that therapeutic CD40-CD40L blocking agents may prove efficacious not only in early and established RA, but also in inhibiting the progression of the disease from arthralgia or UA to RA.
Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.