Objective: Targeting the interleukin 17 (IL-17) axis is efficacious in psoriasis and spondyloarthritis (SpA), but not in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We investigated potential differences in tissue expression and function of IL-17A and IL-17F in these conditions.
Methods: mRNA expression of cytokines and their receptors was assessed by quantitative PCR in psoriasis skin samples, in SpA and RA synovial tissue (ST) samples and in fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS). Cytokines were measured in synovial fluid (SF) and FLS supernatants by ELISA. FLS were stimulated with IL-17A or IL-17F cytokines supplemented with tumor necrosis factor (TNF), or with pooled SF from patients with SpA or RA.
Results: Levels of IL-17A (P = 0.031) and IL-17F (P = 0.017) mRNA were lower in psoriatic arthritis ST compared to paired psoriasis skin samples. The level of IL-17A mRNA was 2.7-fold lower than that of IL-17F in skin (P = 0.0078), but 17.3-fold higher in ST (P < 0.0001). In SF, the level of IL-17A protein was 37.4-fold higher than that of IL-17F [median 292.4 (IQR 81.4-464.2) vs median 7.8 (IQR 7.7-8.7) pg/mL; P < 0.0001]. IL-17A and IL-17F mRNA and protein levels did not differ in SpA compared to RA synovitis samples, and neither were the IL-17 receptors IL-17RA and IL-17RC, or the TNF receptors TNFR1 and TNR2, differentially expressed between SpA and RA ST, nor between SpA and RA FLS. SpA and RA FLS produced similar amounts of IL-6 and IL-8 protein upon stimulation with IL-17A or IL-17F cytokines, supplemented with 1 ng/ml TNF. Pooled SpA or RA SF samples similarly enhanced the inflammatory response to IL-17A and IL-17F simulation in FLS.
Conclusion: The IL-17A/IL-17F expression ratio is higher in SpA synovitis compared to psoriasis skin. Expression of IL-17A and IL-17F, and the functional response to these cytokines, appear to be similar in SpA and RA synovitis.
Keywords: interleukin 17A; interleukin 17F; rheumatoid arthritis; spondyloarthritis; synovial fibroblasts; therapeutic targeting.