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Open Access Research article

Upregulation of tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 correlated with synovitis severity in rheumatoid arthritis

Lang-Jing Zhu1, Lie Dai1*, Dong-Hui Zheng1, Ying-Qian Mo1, Xia Ou-Yang1, Xiu-Ning Wei1, Jun Shen2 and Bai-Yu Zhang1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Rheumatology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, 510120, P.R China

2 Department of Radiology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, 510120, PR. China

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R133  doi:10.1186/ar3866

Published: 4 June 2012

Abstract

Introduction

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease leading to joint destruction and disability. Focal bone erosion is due to excess bone resorption of osteoclasts. Tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) is one of the critical mediators both in inflammatory signal pathway and differentiation and resorption activity of osteoclasts. Here we aimed to investigate TRAF6 expression in RA synovium and its correlation with histological synovitis severity and radiological joint destruction in RA.

Methods

Synovitis score was determined in needle biopsied synovium from 44 patients with active RA. Synovium from nine patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and seven with orthopedic arthropathies (Orth.A) were enrolled as "less inflamed" disease controls. Serial sections were stained immunohistochemically for TRAF6 as well as CD68 (macrophage), CD3 (T cell), CD20 (B cell), CD38 (plasmocyte), CD79a (B lineage cells from pre-B cell to plasmocyte stage), and CD34 (endothelial cell). Double immunofluorescence staining of TRAF6 and CD68 were tested. Densities of positive staining cells were determined and correlated with histological disease activity (synovitis score) and radiographic joint destruction (Sharp score).

Results

TRAF6 expression was found in the intimal and subintimal area of RA synovium, with intense staining found in the endochylema and nucleus of intimal synoviocytes and subintimal inflammatory cells. Double immunofluorescence staining showed TRAF6 was expressed in most of the intimal cells and obviously expressed in CD68+ cells and some other CD68- cells in subintimal area. Synovial TRAF6 was significantly over-expressed in the RA group compared with the OA and Orth.A group (2.53 ± 0.94 vs. 0.72 ± 0.44 and 0.71 ± 0.49, P < 0.0001). Synovial TRAF6 expression in RA correlated significantly with synovitis score (r = 0.412, P = 0.006), as well as the inflammatory cell infiltration (r = 0.367, P = 0.014). Significant correlation was detected between synovial TRAF6 expression and intimal CD68+ cells, as well as the cell density of subintimal CD68+ cells, CD3+ cells, CD20+ cells, CD38+ cells, and CD79a+ cells (all P < 0.05).

Conclusions

Elevated synovial TRAF6 expression correlated with synovitis severity and CD68+ cell density in RA. It is, therefore, hypothesized that synovial TRAF6 is involved in the pathogenesis of synovial inflammation and osteoclast differentiation in RA.