The response of T cells to interleukin-6 is differentially regulated by the microenvironment of the rheumatoid synovial fluid and tissue

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OBJECTIVE Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a proinflammatory cytokine with regulatory effects on the survival and differentiation of T cells. It exerts its biologic function in 2 ways: by directly binding to the IL-6 receptor (IL-6R; CD126) or via trans-signaling, in which soluble IL-6R/IL-6 complexes bind to the signaling component CD130. This study was undertaken to assess the expression and regulation of CD126 and CD130 and determine how these affect the response of CD4+ T cells to IL-6 in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS Flow cytometry and immunofluorescence microscopy were used to determine the expression, function, and regulation of CD126 and CD130 in CD4+ T cells from the peripheral blood (PB), synovial fluid (SF), and synovial tissue of RA patients. RESULTS Compared to the findings in RA PB, CD4+ T cells in the SF and synovial tissue expressed low levels of CD126. In contrast, whereas CD4+ T cell expression of CD130 was minimal in the SF, its level in the synovial tissue was high. Consistent with this phenotype, synovial tissue T cells responded to trans-signaling by soluble IL-6R/IL-6 complexes, whereas no response was evident in CD4+ T cells from the SF. Down-regulation of both receptor components in SF T cells could be explained by exposure to high levels of IL-6. Increased levels of CD130 messenger RNA and protein in synovial tissue CD4+ T cells suggested that CD130 is up-regulated locally. Among a range of cytokines tested, only IL-10 induced CD130 expression in T cells. CONCLUSION The inflamed microenvironment in the synovial tissue maintains responsiveness to IL-6 trans-signaling through the up-regulation of CD130 expression in CD4+ T cells, and this process may be driven by IL-10.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3284-93
Number of pages10
JournalArthritis & Rheumatism
Issue number11
Early online date28 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011