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Abstract

Objective

To assess the role of the activating receptor NKG2D in arthritis.

Methods

Levels of NKG2D and its ligands were determined by fluorescence-activated cell sorting, real-time polymerase chain reaction, and immunohistochemistry in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial membrane tissue and in paw tissue from arthritic mice. Arthritis was induced in DBA/1 mice by immunization with type II collagen, and mice were treated intraperitoneally with a blocking anti-NKG2D antibody (CX5) on days 1, 5, and 8 after clinical onset and were monitored for 10 days.

Results

We demonstrated expression of NKG2D and its ligands on human RA synovial cells and extended this finding to the paws of arthritic mice. Expression of messenger RNA for the NKG2D ligand Rae-1 was up-regulated, and NKG2D was present predominantly on natural killer (NK) and CD4+ T cells, in arthritic paw cell isolates. NKG2D was down-modulated during the progression of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). NKG2D expression in arthritic paws was demonstrated by immunohistochemistry. Blockade of NKG2D ameliorated established CIA, with significant reductions in clinical scores and paw swelling. Histologic analysis of arthritic joints from anti-NKG2D–treated mice demonstrated significant joint protection, compared with control mice. Moreover, anti-NKG2D treatment significantly reduced both interleukin-17 production from CD4+ T cells in arthritic paws and splenic NK cell cytotoxic effector functions in vivo and in vitro.

Conclusion

Our findings indicate that blockade of NKG2D in a murine model and in human explants has beneficial therapeutic potential that merits further investigation in RA.