To determine the involvement of mesenchymal progenitor cells in the induction of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA).


DBA/1 mice were immunized with type II collagen in adjuvant or adjuvant alone, and the presence of mesenchymal cells in the joints of prearthritic mice was studied by immunohistochemistry.


An analysis of the joints on day 10 postimmunization (at least 10 days before the onset of arthritis) revealed synovial hyperplasia without leukocytic infiltration. Large, round cells expressing bone morphogenetic protein receptors (BMPRs), which serve as markers for primitive mesenchymal cells, were present in increased numbers in the bone marrow adjacent to the joint, in the synovium itself, and within enlarged bone canals that connect the bone marrow to the synovium. Similar changes were observed in mice given adjuvant without collagen. Adjuvant-induced infiltration of BMPR+ cells and enlargement of bone canals were abrogated by anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) treatment and were absent in TNFR p55/p75−/− mice. Increased numbers of bone marrow cells and enlarged bone canals were observed in nonimmunized TNF transgenic mice (which spontaneously develop arthritis).


These findings suggest that in CIA, there is an antigen-independent (innate) prearthritic phase that prepares the joint for the subsequent immune-mediated arthritis. The induction phase involves marrow-derived mesenchymal cells and requires the presence of TNF.