Pathogenetic factors of importance for the development and progression of rheumatoid arthritis

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå Universitet

Abstract: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation eventually leading to the destruction of cartilage and bone. The aetiopathogenesis is not completely understood, but previous studies have shown that the disease is multifactorial with genetic, environmental and hormonal factors involved. Immune cells, e.g., T- and B-cells, and macrophages, migrate into the joints, with increased expression of numerous soluble factors such as cytokines, chemokines and adhesion molecules functionally active both locally and systemically. Analyses of blood samples from the Medical Biobank in Umeå from individuals before the onset of symptoms of joint disease showed that anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies (ACPA) preceded the development of disease by years and this finding has been confirmed by other studies.                                        The aim of this thesis was to identify signs of activation of the immune system analysed as up-regulation of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, sero-positivity for autoantibodies, and genetic factors identified as relevant for the development and disease progression of RA. The concentrations of 30 cytokines and chemokines were measured in blood samples from individuals before the onset of symptoms, and when diagnosed with RA, together with population-based matched controls using a multiplex system. The predictive value of different isotypes (IgG, IgA, and IgM) of ACPA and rheumatoid factor (RF) before onset of symptoms and different types of ACPA (e.g., mutated citrullinated vimentin, MCV) were analysed for disease development and progression in patients with early RA and controls from Northern Sweden. These factors were related to the genetic markers, HLA- shared epitope (SE) alleles and the 1858C/T polymorphism of the protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (PTPN22) gene.                           In paper I, it was shown that in individuals who later developed RA (i.e., pre-patients) the levels of several cytokines and related factors that represent the adaptive immune system (Th1, Th2, and T regulatory cell related factors) were significantly elevated compared with controls, whereas, after the onset of disease the involvement of the immune system was more general and widespread. In paper II, the presence of different isotypes (IgM, IgA and IgG) of ACPA in pre-patients, patients and controls was evaluated showing that both the IgG and IgA isotype predicted the onset of RA by years with the IgG isotype having the highest predictive value. In paper III, the association of the 1858T variant of PTPN22 with RA was confirmed. Furthermore, the association was restricted to autoantibody positive disease and this variant was correlated with an earlier age for disease onset. In paper IV, anti-MCV antibodies were identified as being associated with a more severe disease course of RA, measured by disease activity score, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and swollen joint count over time compared with anti-CCP2, anti-CCP3, and anti-CCP3.1 antibodies.                                                                                               In conclusion, individuals who later developed RA had increased concentrations of inflammatory markers reflecting an activation of the immune system years before the clinical symptoms of the disease developed. Also, the presence of ACPA of IgG and IgA isotype prior to disease onset predicted the development of RA. The PTPN22 1858T variant was associated with sero-positive RA and anti-MCV antibodies were associated with a higher inflammatory activity compared with anti-CCP2, -CCP3 and -CCP3.1 antibodies. These findings together present a possibility to better predict the development and progression of RA.

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