TNF-α Inhibitors Decrease Classical CD14hiCD16- Monocyte Subsets in Highly Active, Conventional Treatment Refractory Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Jan 12;20(2):291. doi: 10.3390/ijms20020291.


Monocytes are pivotal cells in inflammatory joint diseases. We aimed to determine the effect of TNF-α inhibitors (TNFi) on peripheral blood monocyte subpopulations and their activation in ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with high disease activity. To address this, we studied 50 (32 AS, 18 RA) patients with highly active disease with no prior history of TNFi use who were recruited and assigned to TNFi or placebo treatment for 12 weeks. Cytometric and clinical assessment was determined at baseline, four, and 12 weeks after initiation of TNFi treatment. We observed that treatment with TNFi led to a significant decrease in CD14hiCD16- monocytes in comparison to placebo, while circulating CD14dimCD16+ monocytes significantly increased. The TNFi-induced monocyte subset shifts were similar in RA and AS patients. While the percentage of CD14dimCD16+ monocytes increased, expression of CD11b and CD11c integrins on their surface was significantly reduced by TNFi. Additionally, CD45RA+ cells were more frequent. The shift towards nonclassical CD14dimCD16+ monocytes in peripheral blood due to TNFi treatment was seen in both AS and RA. This may reflect reduced recruitment of these cells to sites of inflammation due to lower inflammatory burden, which is associated with decreased disease activity.

Keywords: ankylosing spondylitis; disease activity; monocytes; rheumatoid arthritis; tumor necrosis factor inhibitor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Blood Cell Count
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • CD11c Antigen / metabolism
  • Female
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Receptors, IgG / metabolism
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / drug therapy*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • CD11b Antigen
  • CD11c Antigen
  • FCGR3B protein, human
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • ITGAM protein, human
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha