High levels of osteoprotegerin and soluble receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand in serum of rheumatoid arthritis patients and their normalization after anti–tumor necrosis factor α treatment




To test the hypotheses that 1) proinflammatory cytokines affect osteoprotegerin (OPG) and soluble receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (sRANKL) production and therefore the OPG and sRANKL levels differ in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in comparison with healthy individuals; and 2) anti–tumor necrosis factor α (anti–TNFα) therapy influences OPG and sRANKL levels.


Sera were obtained from healthy individuals or RA patients receiving the combination of infliximab and methotrexate. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and synovial fluid mononuclear cells (SFMCs) were isolated from RA patients. Fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) were isolated from synovial tissue obtained at total knee replacement in RA patients. Supernatants from cells stimulated with cytokines were collected after culture in vitro. Concentrations of OPG and sRANKL were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.


A strong positive correlation between OPG concentration and age was observed in healthy individuals but not in RA patients. The OPG and sRANKL levels were higher in RA patients than in healthy controls. Cultured FLS spontaneously secreted much higher amounts of OPG than PBMCs or SFMCs. Proinflammatory cytokines enhanced OPG production. Anti-TNFα treatment resulted in the normalization of serum OPG and sRANKL levels in RA patients without influencing the OPG:sRANKL ratio.


Although higher serum levels of OPG and sRANKL are present in RA patients than in healthy individuals, the ratio of OPG:sRANKL is similar. There is an age-dependent increase of OPG but not sRANKL levels in healthy subjects. Anti-TNFα treatment results in the normalization of elevated levels of OPG and sRANKL in RA patients.