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Open Access Research article

Intimal lining layer macrophages but not synovial sublining macrophages display an IL-10 polarized-like phenotype in chronic synovitis

Carmen A Ambarus12*, Troy Noordenbos12, Maria JH de Hair1, Paul P Tak13 and Dominique LP Baeten12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Academic Medical Center/University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Experimental Immunology, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 GlaxoSmithKline, Gunnels Wood Road, Stevenage Herts, SG1 2NY, UK

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R74  doi:10.1186/ar3796

Published: 11 April 2012

Abstract

Introduction

Synovial tissue macrophages play a key role in chronic inflammatory arthritis, but the contribution of different macrophage subsets in this process remains largely unknown. The main in vitro polarized macrophage subsets are classically (M1) and alternatively (M2) activated macrophages, the latter comprising interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10 polarized cells. Here, we aimed to evaluate the polarization status of synovial macrophages in spondyloarthritis (SpA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods

Expression of polarization markers on synovial macrophages, peripheral blood monocytes, and in vitro polarized monocyte-derived macrophages from SpA versus RA patients was assessed by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry, respectively. The polarization status of the intimal lining layer and the synovial sublining macrophages was assessed by double immunofluorescence staining.

Results

The expression of the IL-10 polarization marker cluster of differentiation 163 (CD163) was increased in SpA compared with RA intimal lining layer, but no differences were found in other M1 and M2 markers between the diseases. Furthermore, no significant phenotypic differences in monocytes and in vitro polarized monocyte-derived macrophages were seen between SpA, RA, and healthy controls, indicating that the differential CD163 expression does not reflect a preferential M2 polarization in SpA. More detailed analysis of intimal lining layer macrophages revealed a strong co-expression of the IL-10 polarization markers CD163 and cluster of differentiation 32 (CD32) but not any of the other markers in both SpA and RA. In contrast, synovial sublining macrophages had a more heterogeneous phenotype, with a majority of cells co-expressing M1 and M2 markers.

Conclusions

The intimal lining layer but not synovial sublining macrophages display an IL-10 polarized-like phenotype, with increased CD163 expression in SpA versus RA synovitis. These differences in the distribution of the polarized macrophage subset may contribute to the outcome of chronic synovitis.