Senescent cells in giant cell arteritis display an inflammatory phenotype participating in tissue injury via IL-6-dependent pathways

Ann Rheum Dis. 2024 Feb 15;83(3):342-350. doi: 10.1136/ard-2023-224467.


Objectives: Age is the strongest risk factor of giant cell arteritis (GCA), implying a possible pathogenetic role of cellular senescence. To address this question, we applied an established senescence specific multimarker algorithm in temporal artery biopsies (TABs) of GCA patients.

Methods: 75(+) TABs from GCA patients, 22(-) TABs from polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) patients and 10(-) TABs from non-GCA/non-PMR patients were retrospectively retrieved and analysed. Synovial tissue specimens from patients with inflammatory arthritis and aorta tissue were used as disease control samples. Senescent cells and their histological origin were identified with specific cellular markers; IL-6 and MMP-9 were investigated as components of the senescent associated secretory phenotype by triple costaining. GCA or PMR artery culture supernatants were applied to fibroblasts, HUVECs and monocytes with or without IL-6R blocking agent to explore the induction of IL-6-associated cellular senescence.

Results: Senescent cells were present in GCA arteries at higher proportion compared with PMR (9.50% vs 2.66%, respectively, p<0.0001) and were mainly originated from fibroblasts, macrophages and endothelial cells. IL-6 was expressed by senescent fibroblasts, and macrophages while MMP-9 by senescent fibroblasts only. IL-6(+) senescent cells were associated with the extension of vascular inflammation (transmural inflammation vs adventitia limited disease: 10.02% vs 4.37%, respectively, p<0.0001). GCA but not PMR artery culture supernatant could induce IL-6-associated senescence that was partially inhibited by IL-6R blockade.

Conclusions: Senescent cells with inflammatory phenotype are present in GCA arteries and are associated with the tissue inflammatory bulk, suggesting a potential implication in disease pathogenesis.

Keywords: Cytokines; Giant Cell Arteritis; Inflammation; Systemic vasculitis.

MeSH terms

  • Cellular Senescence
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Giant Cell Arteritis* / complications
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica* / complications
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Interleukin-6
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9