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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

CD56+ monocytes have a dysregulated cytokine response to lipopolysaccharide and accumulate in rheumatoid arthritis and immunosenescence

Marco Krasselt, Christoph Baerwald, Ulf Wagner and Manuela Rossol*

Author Affiliations

Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Leipzig, Liebigstrasse 20, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R139  doi:10.1186/ar4321

Published: 1 October 2013

Abstract

Introduction

Peripheral blood monocytes are no longer regarded as a homogeneous cell population, but can be differentiated both phenotypically and functionally into various subpopulations. In rheumatoid arthritis, the subpopulation of CD14bright/CD16+ monocyte is expanded and prone towards generation of Th17 cells. CD56+ monocytes represent a different subpopulation, which is also expanded in conditions associated with autoimmunity like inflammatory bowel diseases. The aim of the study was the quantification and functional characterization of the CD56+ monocyte subset in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods

Frequencies of peripheral blood monocyte subpopulations were analyzed by flow cytometry in 86 healthy controls and 75 RA patients. In 16 patients, anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy was initiated, and the CD56+ monocyte frequency was monitored longitudinally. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cytokine production of CD56+ and CD56– monocytes was determined by intracellular staining or cytokine secretion assays.

Results

In healthy individuals, 8.6% ± 0.6 of the monocytes co-expressed CD56, with the majority of CD56+ monocytes being CD14bright (7.9% ± 0.5), while only a minor population was CD14dim (0.7% ± 0.1). We found a strong positive correlation between an individual’s age and the frequency of CD56+ monocytes. Upon stimulation with LPS, CD56+ monocytes became more frequently positive for TNF, IL-10 and IL-23 than CD56– monocytes. In addition, CD56+ monocytes spontaneously produced more reactive oxygen intermediates than CD56- monocytes. In RA patients, the frequency of CD56+ monocytes was significantly higher than in healthy controls (12.2% ± 0.9 vs. 7.9% ± 0.5, p = 0.0002), and this difference most pronounced in RA patients below 40 years of age (11.1% ± 1.6 vs. 4.1% ± 0.4, P < 0.0001). Treatment of the patients with an anti-TNF blocking agent significantly reduced CD56+ monocyte frequencies (baseline 12.4% vs. 24 weeks treatment 8.0%, P = 0.0429), and the magnitude of this decrease was found to correlate with the change in disease activity under the therapy.

Conclusion

The CD14bright/CD56+ monocyte subset is expanded in aging individuals as well as in patients with RA. The pro-inflammatory production of cytokines and reactive oxygen species as well as the elimination of those cells in patients with a good response towards TNF inhibiting agents indicates a possible contribution of those monocytes in the inflammatory response in RA.