Objective: To study the production of interleukin-13 (IL-13) in rheumatoid synovium and the effects of recombinant IL-13 on the phenotype and function of synovial fluid (SF) macrophages and T cells derived from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: The presence of IL-13 in SF was studied using an IL-13-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); the production of IL-13 was studied in SF mononuclear cells (SFMC) by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. The effects of recombinant IL-13 on cytokine production by and phenotype of SFMC were evaluated using cytokine-specific ELISAs and flow cytometry, respectively. The effect of IL-13 on the proliferation of SFMC was determined by 3H-thymidine incorporation. The production and the effects of IL-13 were compared with those of IL-4.
Results: IL-13 was present in 27 of 28 SF samples, and IL-13 messenger RNA (mRNA) was detectable in SFMC. Importantly, IL-13 levels were significantly higher than those of IL-4, and IL-13 protein and mRNA were expressed in several samples, although IL-4 synthesis was undetectable. Recombinant IL-13 significantly reduced the production of IL-1 beta and tumor necrosis factor alpha and the expression of CD16 and CD64 by SF macrophages, whereas the expression of HLA-DR and CD23 was increased. These effects on SF macrophages were similar to those observed with IL-4, but in contrast to IL-4, IL-13 had no growth-promoting effect on SF T cells.
Conclusion: IL-13 is consistently present in rheumatoid synovium. The ability of exogenous IL-13 to decrease the production of proinflammatory cytokines by SFMC suggests that it may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of patients with RA.