JOURNAL ARTICLE

Overexpression of TLR2 and TLR9 on monocyte subsets of active rheumatoid arthritis patients contributes to enhance responsiveness to TLR agonists

Patricia Lacerte, Alexandre Brunet, Benoit Egarnes, Benjamin Duchêne, Jacques P Brown, Jean Gosselin
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2016 January 13, 18: 10
26759164

BACKGROUND: Synovial infiltration of monocytes is commonly associated with inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are innate sensors that recognize cell debris and microbial components in host, a process contributing to maintain chronic inflammation in RA. We assessed the expression levels of TLR2 and TLR9 in monocyte subsets of active RA patients and characterized their cytokine profiles in response to synthetic and viral TLR2 and TLR9 agonists, including Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which is suspected to contribute to RA symptoms.

METHODS: Prevalence of monocyte subsets CD14(++) CD16(-), CD14(+) CD16(+) and CD14(low) CD16(++) was evaluated in blood and synovial fluids of active RA patients and levels of TLR2 and TLR9 in monocyte subsets were measured by flow cytometry. Enriched monocytes derived from RA patients and healthy donors were stimulated in vitro with synthetic TLR2 and TLR9 agonists and with EBV particles or viral DNA. Intracellular cytokine profiles were determined in respective monocyte subsets. Finally, the presence of EBV genome was evaluated by real-time PCR in blood and synovial monocytes of RA patients.

RESULTS: Numbers of CD14(+) CD16(+) and CD14(low) CD16(++) were found to increase in blood of RA patients compared to healthy controls, while all three subsets were detected in synovial fluids. TLR2 is abundantly expressed on blood and synovial CD14(++) CD16(-) and CD14(+) CD16(+) monocytes from RA patients. Levels of TLR9 were increased on all three subsets of blood monocytes but markedly enhanced in monocytes isolated from synovial fluids. Compared to healthy controls, CD14(++) CD16(-) monocytes of RA patients displayed an enlarged capacity to produce proinflammatory cytokines after stimulation with synthetic TLR2 and TLR9 agonists while both CD14(++) CD16(-) and CD14(+) CD16(+) monocytes showed increased response to EBV stimulation. The presence of EBV genome was also detected in monocytes and neutrophils of a significant proportion of patients.

CONCLUSION: Patients with active RA show an increased expression of TLR2 and TLR9 on monocyte subsets and display higher production of inflammatory cytokines in response to TLR agonists. The presence of EBV genome in monocytes and neutrophils reinforces the suspected role of the virus in the exacerbation of RA symptoms.

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