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Abstract

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease characterized by a heavy lymphocytic infiltration into the synovial cavity, resulting in the secretion of a variety of cytokines which ultimately leads to destruction of joint tissue. Among the infiltrating cells are activated T cells which produce specific cytokines capable of osteoclast progenitor cell expansion, fusion, and activation. Cultures of activated human T cells and human osteoblasts (hOBs) were used to study the possibility that lymphokines may act on osteoblasts to produce the osteoclastogenic factor interleukin-6 (IL-6). Purified T cells were activated with a combination of anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies, cocultured with hOBs in direct physical contact or separated by a transwell system, and conditioned media (CM) were assayed for IL-6 production. After a 72 h incubation period, activated T cell–hOB interaction resulted in a 100-fold increase of IL-6 production over basal levels. The immunosuppressant cyclosporine A (CsA) inhibited T cell tumor necrosis factor alpha and IL-6 production but did not inhibit the T cell induction of IL-6 from hOB. Assay of activated T-cell CM on hOB revealed that a soluble factor, not cell-cell contact, was the major inducer of IL-6. The induction of IL-6 mRNA by both activated T cell CM and CsA-treated activated T cell CM was confirmed by Northern blot analysis. Neutralizing antibodies to IL-13 and IL-17 did not affect IL-6 production. These findings suggest that activated T cells produce a novel, potent, IL-6 inducing factor that may be responsible for the bone loss observed in RA patients.