Directional migration of leukocytes is orchestrated by the regulated expression of chemokine receptors and their ligands. The receptor CXCR6 is abundantly expressed by Th1-polarized effector/memory lymphocytes accumulating at inflammatory sites. This study was undertaken to examine the presence of CXCR6+ T cells and of CXCL16, the only ligand for CXCR6, in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Flow cytometry analysis of the expression of CXCR6 by peripheral blood and synovial fluid (SF) T cells. In addition, by performing conventional and real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemistry, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we determined the expression of CXCL16 and its protease ADAM-10 within synovium and by cultured macrophages. SF T cell migration was studied with the Transwell system.
Accumulation of CXCR6+ T cells within RA SF coincided with highly elevated levels of CXCL16+ macrophages. In vitro studies revealed that monocytes started to express CXCL16 upon differentiation into macrophages, and that RA SF and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) enhanced CXCL16 expression. Moreover, RA patients responding to anti-TNF therapy showed a strongly decreased CXCL16 expression, whereas nonresponding patients did not. Interestingly, ADAM-10, a recently identified protease of CXCL16, was abundantly expressed by CXCL16+ macrophages in vitro and in RA in vivo, which resulted in increased levels of cleaved CXCL16 in RA SF relative to controls. Finally, CXCR6+ T cells from RA SF were attracted by CXCL16.
These data provide evidence that enhanced production of CXCL16 in RA synovia leads to recruitment of CXCR6+ memory T cells, thereby contributing to the inflammatory cascade associated with RA pathology.