Osteoclasts and their circulating precursors in rheumatoid arthritis: Relationships with disease activity and bone erosions

Bone Rep. 2020 May 15;12:100282. doi: 10.1016/j.bonr.2020.100282. eCollection 2020 Jun.


Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have very different outcomes, particularly with regard to bone erosions. Since osteoclasts are responsible for bone destruction adjacent to rheumatoid synovium, profiling osteoclasts from circulating precursors in RA could help identify patients at risk for bone destruction. In this study, we sought to determine whether the functional characteristics of osteoclasts generated from their blood precursors were modified by RA activity or were intrinsic to osteoclasts and associated with the RA phenotype (erosive or not). Osteoclasts were generated in vitro from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of subjects with RA (n = 140), as well as sex- and age-matched healthy controls (n = 101). Osteoclastic parameters were analyzed at baseline and during the follow-up for up to 4 years, with regular assessment of RA activity, bone erosions, and bone mineral density (BMD). As a validation cohort, we examined RA patients from the Early Undifferentiated PolyArthritis (EUPA) study (n = 163). The proportion of CD14+ PBMC was higher in RA than in control subjects, but inversely correlated with the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28). Also surprisingly, in osteoclast cultures from PBMCs, active RA was associated with lower osteoclastogenic capacity, while in vitro bone resorption per osteoclast and resistance to apoptosis were similar in both active and quiescent RA. In a small subgroup analysis, osteoclasts from subjects with recent RA that had progressed at four years to an erosive RA exhibited at baseline greater resistance to apoptosis than those from patients remaining non-erosive. Our findings establish that when RA is active, circulating monocytes have a reduced potential to generate osteoclasts from PBMCs in vitro. In addition, osteoclasts associated with erosive disease had resistance to apoptosis from the start of RA.

Keywords: CD14+ monocytes; Erosion; Osteoclast; Rheumatoid arthritis.