Monocyte alterations in rheumatoid arthritis are dominated by preterm release from bone marrow and prominent triggering in the joint

Ann Rheum Dis. 2018 Feb;77(2):300-308. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2017-211649. Epub 2017 Nov 30.


Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) accompanies infiltration and activation of monocytes in inflamed joints. We investigated dominant alterations of RA monocytes in bone marrow (BM), blood and inflamed joints.

Methods: CD14+ cells from BM and peripheral blood (PB) of patients with RA and osteoarthritis (OA) were profiled with GeneChip microarrays. Detailed functional analysis was performed with reference transcriptomes of BM precursors, monocyte blood subsets, monocyte activation and mobilisation. Cytometric profiling determined monocyte subsets of CD14++CD16-, CD14++CD16+ and CD14+CD16+ cells in BM, PB and synovial fluid (SF) and ELISAs quantified the release of activation markers into SF and serum.

Results: Investigation of genes differentially expressed between RA and OA monocytes with reference transcriptomes revealed gene patterns of early myeloid precursors in RA-BM and late myeloid precursors along with reduced terminal differentiation to CD14+CD16+monocytes in RA-PB. Patterns associated with tumor necrosis factor/lipopolysaccharide (TNF/LPS) stimulation were weak and more pronounced in RA-PB than RA-BM. Cytometric phenotyping of cells in BM, blood and SF disclosed differences related to monocyte subsets and confirmed the reduced frequency of terminally differentiated CD14+CD16+monocytes in RA-PB. Monocyte activation in SF was characterised by the predominance of CD14++CD16++CD163+HLA-DR+ cells and elevated concentrations of sCD14, sCD163 and S100P.

Conclusion: Patterns of less mature and less differentiated RA-BM and RA-PB monocytes suggest increased turnover with accelerated monocytopoiesis, BM egress and migration into inflamed joints. Predominant activation in the joint indicates the action of local and primary stimuli, which may also promote adaptive immune triggering through monocytes, potentially leading to new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: inflammation; osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / genetics
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Humans
  • Joints / pathology*
  • Monocytes / cytology*
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Monocytes / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis / genetics
  • Osteoarthritis / immunology
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Synovial Fluid / cytology