Cellular metabolic adaptations in rheumatoid arthritis and their therapeutic implications

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2022 Jul;18(7):398-414. doi: 10.1038/s41584-022-00771-x. Epub 2022 Apr 19.


Activation of endothelium and immune cells is fundamental to the initiation of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and it results in trans-endothelial cell migration and synovial fibroblast proliferation, leading to joint destruction. In RA, the synovial microvasculature is highly dysregulated, resulting in inefficient oxygen perfusion to the synovium, which, along with the high metabolic demands of activated immune and stromal cells, leads to a profoundly hypoxic microenvironment. In inflamed joints, infiltrating immune cells and synovial resident cells have great requirements for energy and nutrients, and they adapt their metabolic profiles to generate sufficient energy to support their highly activated inflammatory states. This shift in metabolic capacity of synovial cells enables them to produce the essential building blocks to support their proliferation, activation and invasiveness. Furthermore, it results in the accumulation of metabolic intermediates and alteration of redox-sensitive pathways, affecting signalling pathways that further potentiate the inflammatory response. Importantly, the inflamed synovium is a multicellular tissue, with cells differing in their metabolic requirements depending on complex cell-cell interactions, nutrient supply, metabolic intermediates and transcriptional regulation. Therefore, understanding the complex interplay between metabolic and inflammatory pathways in synovial cells in RA will provide insight into the underlying mechanisms of disease pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism
  • Synoviocytes* / metabolism