Objective: To examine whether synoviocytes from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a stronger growth ability than those from patients with osteoarthritis (OA), and to determine whether these synoviocytes clonally expand in situ.
Methods: Synovial tissues from 13 RA patients and 4 OA patients were cultured, and their ability to form colonies in soft agarose was examined. RA and OA synoviocytes were also examined in varying concentrations of fetal calf serum (FCS)-containing medium to test the effects of FCS on colony formation. DNA was extracted from clones with colony-forming ability in nonpannus lesions and from synoviocytes in pannus lesions. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis was used to examine phosphoglycerate kinase 1 (PGK-1) gene patterns. Production of cytokines by these cells was also assessed.
Results: All 13 RA synoviocytes exhibited colony formation, whereas none of the 4 OA synoviocytes did. This tendency was also seen with all of the concentrations of FCS examined, although growth varied in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast to OA synovial clones, cloned RA synoviocytes obtained from colonies exhibited a partial RFLP PGK-1 gene pattern, suggesting that the clones originated from monoclonal cells. Of note, 3 of 7 noncloned synoviocytes from pannus lesions exhibited a monoclonal pattern. Pannus cells produced high levels of transforming growth factor beta and platelet-derived growth factor.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that synoviocytes with a strong growth ability are present in the rheumatoid synovium, and that these cells expand monoclonally, particularly in pannus lesions.