Objective. To quantify interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) and IL-1 production and gene expression by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial tissue (ST) cells.
Methods. IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-1ra protein levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in fresh and cultured ST cells, purified synovial macrophages, and fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS). The relative expression of the secreted form of IL-1ra (sIL-1ra) and the alternatively spliced intracellular form (icIL-1ra) was determined by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) techniques.
Results. IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-1ra were present in fresh and cultured ST cell samples of synovium from RA and osteoarthritis patients. IL-1ra:IL-1 ratios ranged from 1.2 to 3.6, which is below the 10–100-fold excess of IL-1ra needed to inhibit IL-1 bioactivity. Isolated CD14+ synovial macrophages secreted IL-1ra, but the amount was much less than that of alveolar or in vitro–derived macrophages. Cultured FLS contained intracellular IL-1ra but secreted little IL-1ra into the culture supernatants. RT-PCR showed that icIL-1ra mRNA was more abundant than sIL-1ra mRNA in FLS and unfractionated ST cells.
Conclusion. IL-1ra production by RA ST cells is deficient relative to total production of IL-1.