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Open Access Research article

Characterization of T cell phenotype and function in a double transgenic (collagen-specific TCR/HLA-DR1) humanized model of arthritis

Bo Tang1, Seunghyun Kim1, Sarah Hammond1, David L Cullins1, David D Brand13, Edward F Rosloniec13, John M Stuart13, Arnold E Postlethwaite13, Andrew H Kang13 and Linda K Myers24*

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN 38163, USA

2 Departments of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN 38163, USA

3 Research Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Memphis, TN 38104, USA

4 Division of Rheumatology, 956 Court Avenue, Room G326, Memphis, TN 38163, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2014, 16:R7  doi:10.1186/ar4433

Published: 10 January 2014

Abstract

Introduction

T cells orchestrate joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), yet they are difficult to study due to the small numbers of antigen-specific cells. The goal of this study was to characterize a new humanized model of autoimmune arthritis and to describe the phenotypic and functional changes that occur in autoimmune T cells following the induction of pathological events.

Methods

We developed a double transgenic mouse containing both the HLA-DR1 transgene and an HLA-DR1-restricted collagen-specific TCR in order to obtain large numbers of antigen-specific T cells that can be used for immunologic studies.

Results

In vitro, CII-specific T cells from this mouse proliferated vigorously in response to the CII immunodominant peptide A2 and the cells altered their phenotype to become predominately CD62Llow and CD44high “activated” T cells. The response was accompanied by the production of Th1, Th2, and Th17-type cytokines. Following immunization with bovine CII/CFA, these mice develop an accelerated arthritis compared to single transgenic HLA-DR1 mice. On the other hand, when the mice were treated orally with the analog peptide A12, (a suppressive analog of collagen we have previously described), arthritis was significantly suppressed, despite the fact that >90% of the CD4+ T cells express the TCR Tg. In GALT tissues taken from the A12-treated mice, IL-2, IFN-γ, and IL-17 production to the autoimmune collagen determinant dropped while high levels of IL-10 and IL-4 were produced.

Conclusions

We have developed a humanized model of autoimmune arthritis that will be useful for the study of T cell directed therapies as well as T cell mediated mechanisms of autoimmune diseases.