To examine the migratory properties of cytokine-activated T (Tck) cells.


Tck cells were generated by culture of peripheral blood T cells in the presence of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor α, and IL-2. Changes in cell surface phenotype were analyzed by flow cytometry. Chemotactic responsiveness was measured using in vitro chemotaxis assays and transendothelial migration through human umbilical vein endothelial cell monolayers. Levels of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1) were measured by sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.


Cytokine stimulation up-regulated the expression of chemokine receptors and integrins on Tck cells, including CXCR4, very late activation antigen 4 (VLA-4), and lymphocyte function–associated antigen 1. Increased expression of CXCR4 and VLA-4 integrin resulted in concentration-dependent chemotaxis to their ligands, stromal cell–derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and VCAM-1, which could be selectively blocked using a specific CXCR4 inhibitor and antibodies against VLA-4. Increased expression of VLA-4 also resulted in increased transendothelial migration of Tck cells, which could be abrogated using blocking antibodies against VLA-4. Tck cells also showed an increased chemotactic response to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) fibroblast-like synoviocytes cultured in vitro, which could be blocked using inhibitors against VLA-4 and CXCR4.


The activated phenotype of Tck cells results in increased migratory responsiveness to SDF-1 and soluble VCAM-1, which are among the chemokines and proteins found elevated in the RA synovial joint environment. Cytokine-dependent activation may contribute to RA pathogenicity by promoting T cell recruitment to and retention in the joint, perpetuating the inflammatory cascade in RA.