T cells play a major role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The programmed death 1 (PD-1)/programmed death ligand 1 (PDL-1) pathway is involved in peripheral tolerance through inhibition of T cells at the level of synovial tissue. The aim of this study was to examine the role of PD-1/PDL-1 in the regulation of human and murine RA.


In synovial tissue and synovial fluid (SF) mononuclear cells from patients with RA, expression of PD-1/PDL-1 was examined by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry, while PD-1 function was assessed in RA peripheral blood (PB) T cells after stimulation of the cells with anti-CD3 and PDL-1.Fc to crosslink PD-1. Collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) was induced in PD-1−/− C57BL/6 mice, and recombinant PDL-1.Fc was injected intraperitoneally to activate PD-1 in vivo.


RA synovium and RA SF were enriched with PD-1+ T cells (mean ± SEM 24 ± 5% versus 4 ± 1% in osteoarthritis samples; P = 0.003) and enriched with PDL-1+ monocyte/macrophages. PD-1 crosslinking inhibited both T cell proliferation and production of interferon-γ (IFNγ) in RA patients; PB T cells incubated with RA SF, as well as SF T cells from patients with active RA, exhibited reduced PD-1–mediated inhibition of T cell proliferation at suboptimal, but not optimal, concentrations of PDL-1.Fc. PD-1−/− mice demonstrated increased incidence of CIA (73% versus 36% in wild-type mice; P < 0.05) and greater severity of CIA (mean maximum arthritis score 5.0 versus 2.3 in wild-type mice; P = 0.040), and this was associated with enhanced T cell proliferation and increased production of cytokines (IFNγ and interleukin-17) in response to type II collagen. PDL-1.Fc treatment ameliorated the severity of CIA and reduced T cell responses.


The negative costimulatory PD-1/PDL-1 pathway regulates peripheral T cell responses in both human and murine RA. PD-1/PDL-1 in rheumatoid synovium may represent an additional target for immunomodulatory therapy in RA.