Ectopic germinal center formation in rheumatoid synovitis

Cornelia M. Weyand, Jörg J. Goronzy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations

Abstract

Synovial inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis is closely related to the formation of ectopic lymphoid microstructures. In synovial tissue from some patients, one finds seemingly diffuse infiltrates; in others, T cells and B cells cluster in aggregates with interdigitating dendritic cells (DCs) but no follicular DCs (FDCs). In a third group, T cell/B cell follicles with germinal center (GC) reactions are generated. Within a given patient, aggregates and GCs are mutually exclusive and stable over time. Because antigen storage capacity, lymphoid density, and three-dimensional topography of GCs optimize immune responses, synovial GCs should play a crucial role in the breakdown of self-tolerance. We have identified factors critical for ectopic GCs, thereby transforming the synovial inflammatory process. Tissues with GCs produced 10- to 20-fold higher amounts of the chemokines CXCL13 and CCL21. CXCL13 derived from three sources, endothelial cells, synovial fibroblasts, and FDC networks. The level of CXCL13 transcripts strongly predicted GCs; however, some tissues had high levels of CXCL13 but lacked GCs. Tissue expression of LT-β emerged as a second key factor. LT-β protein was detected on follicular center and mantle zone B cells. Multivariate regression analysis identified CXCL13 and LT-β as the only cytokines predicting GCs. Remarkably, LT-α did not contribute independently. The contribution of B cells to ectopic lymphoid organogenesis was not limited to LT-β production. Rather, synovial tissue B cells were critical in regulating T cell activation. In adoptive transfer experiments in human synovium-SCID mouse chimeras, activation of synovium-derived CD4 T cells was strictly dependent on T cell/B cell follicles. Depletion of synovial tissue B cells abrogated T cell function, and non-B cell antigen-presenting cells could not maintain T cell stimulation. Unexpectedly, GC function in the rheumatoid lesion was also dependent on CD8 T cells. The majority of T cell receptors derived from CD8 T cells were shared between distinct GCs. Depletion of CD8 T cells disrupted synovial GCs, FDC networks disappeared, and transcription of LT-β, IgG, and Igκ declined. Follicle-sustaining CD8 T cells were located at the edge of or within the mantle zone. Cell-cell communication in the mantle zone, including CD8 T cells, appears to be critical for ectopic GC formation in rheumatoid synovitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Volume987
DOIs
StatePublished - 2003

Keywords

  • Antigen presentation
  • Autoimmunity
  • Lymphoid organization
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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