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Open Access Research article

Visualization and phenotyping of proinflammatory antigen-specific T cells during collagen-induced arthritis in a mouse with a fixed collagen type II-specific transgenic T-cell receptor β-chain

Patrick Merky1, Tsvetelina Batsalova1, Robert Bockermann2, Balik Dzhambazov1, Bettina Sehnert3, Harald Burkhardt4 and Johan Bäcklund1*

Author Affiliations

1 Section for Medical Inflammation Research, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, Scheeles väg 2, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

2 Section for Medical Inflammation Research, Department of Experimental Medical Sciences, Lund University, Sölvegatan 19, 22184 Lund, Sweden

3 Nikolaus-Fiebiger-Center for Molecular Medicine, Department of Experimental Medicine I, University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Glückstrasse 6, 91054 Erlangen, Germany

4 Division of Rheumatology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2010, 12:R155  doi:10.1186/ar3108

Published: 3 August 2010

Abstract

Introduction

The Vβ12-transgenic mouse was previously generated to investigate the role of antigen-specific T cells in collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), an animal model for rheumatoid arthritis. This mouse expresses a transgenic collagen type II (CII)-specific T-cell receptor (TCR) β-chain and consequently displays an increased immunity to CII and increased susceptibility to CIA. However, while the transgenic Vβ12 chain recombines with endogenous α-chains, the frequency and distribution of CII-specific T cells in the Vβ12-transgenic mouse has not been determined. The aim of the present report was to establish a system enabling identification of CII-specific T cells in the Vβ12-transgenic mouse in order to determine to what extent the transgenic expression of the CII-specific β-chain would skew the response towards the immunodominant galactosylated T-cell epitope and to use this system to monitor these cells throughout development of CIA.

Methods

We have generated and thoroughly characterized a clonotypic antibody, which recognizes a TCR specific for the galactosylated CII(260-270) peptide in the Vβ12-transgenic mouse. Hereby, CII-specific T cells could be quantified and followed throughout development of CIA, and their phenotype was determined by combinatorial analysis with the early activation marker CD154 (CD40L) and production of cytokines.

Results

The Vβ12-transgenic mouse expresses several related but distinct T-cell clones specific for the galactosylated CII peptide. The clonotypic antibody could specifically recognize the majority (80%) of these. Clonotypic T cells occurred at low levels in the naïve mouse, but rapidly expanded to around 4% of the CD4+ T cells, whereupon the frequency declined with developing disease. Analysis of the cytokine profile revealed an early Th1-biased response in the draining lymph nodes that would shift to also include Th17 around the onset of arthritis. Data showed that Th1 and Th17 constitute a minority among the CII-specific population, however, indicating that additional subpopulations of antigen-specific T cells regulate the development of CIA.

Conclusions

The established system enables the detection and detailed phenotyping of T cells specific for the galactosylated CII peptide and constitutes a powerful tool for analysis of the importance of these cells and their effector functions throughout the different phases of arthritis.