Immune-bone interplay in the structural damage in rheumatoid arthritis

Clin Exp Immunol. 2018 Oct;194(1):1-8. doi: 10.1111/cei.13188. Epub 2018 Sep 4.


The immune and bone systems maintain homeostasis by interacting closely with each other. Rheumatoid arthritis is a pathological consequence of their interplay, as activated T cell immune responses result in osteoclast-mediated bone erosion. An imbalance between forkhead box protein 3 (Foxp3)+ regulatory T (Treg ) cells and T helper type 17 (Th17) cells is often linked with autoimmune diseases, including arthritis. Th17 cells contribute to the bone destruction in arthritis by up-regulating receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-Β ligand (RANKL) on synovial fibroblasts as well as inducing local inflammation. Studies on the origin of Th17 cells in inflammation have shed light on the pathogenic conversion of Foxp3+ T cells. Th17 cells converted from Foxp3+ T cells (exFoxp3 Th17 cells) comprise the most potent osteoclastogenic T cell subset in inflammatory bone loss. It has been suggested that osteoclastogenic T cells may have developed originally to stop local infection in periodontitis by inducing tooth loss. In addition, Th17 cells also contribute to the pathogenesis of arthritis by modulating antibody function. Antibodies and immune complexes have attracted considerable attention for their direct role in osteoclastogenesis, and a specific T cell subset in joints was shown to be involved in B cell antibody production. Here we summarize the recent advances in our understanding of the immune-bone interplay in the context of the bone destruction in arthritis.

Keywords: Autoantibody; Osteoclast; RANKL; Th17; rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Bone and Bones / pathology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Osteoclasts / metabolism*
  • Osteogenesis / immunology
  • RANK Ligand / metabolism
  • Synovial Membrane / cytology
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • RANK Ligand
  • TNFSF11 protein, human