Peripheral blood lymphocytes from patients with rheumatoid arthritis are differentially sensitive to apoptosis induced by anti-tumour necrosis factor-alpha therapy

F Coury, C Ferraro-Peyret, S Le Cam, S Guerin, J Tebib, J Sibilia, J Bienvenu, N Fabien
Objective The effi cacy of anti-tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) therapies in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been mainly attributed to TNF-alpha neutralisation. Other mechanism as immune cell apoptosis, which is impaired in RA, may also be induced by anti-TNF-alpha therapies. The aim of our study was to investigate whether TNF-alpha inhibitors could induce apoptosis in vitro of the peripheral blood lymphocytes of RA patients. Methods Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) isolated
more » ... (PBMC) isolated from 24 patients with RA and 18 healthy donors were incubated with anti-TNF-alpha agents, infl iximab or etanercept, in comparison with no agent and including an isotypic control, for 48 hours. Apoptosis was detected and quantifi ed by annexin V labelling of phosphatidylserine externalization using cytofl uorometric analysis and compared with PBMC production TNF-alpha in vitro. Results In healthy donors, induced apoptosis was observed in 0.3% to 3.8% of lymphocytes with both therapies. In RA patients the treatment induced lymphocyte apoptosis in 17 of 24 patients with a percentage of annexin V-positive lymphocytes ranging from 0.1% to 25%. Among these 17 RA patients, a signifi cant in vitro lymphocyte apoptosis (> 4%) was observed in 11 patients (46%) compared with healthy donors (p < 0.01). The variability of the response to anti-TNF-alpha within the RA population was not dependent on TNF-alpha synthesis or disease activity. Conclusions In vitro induction of lymphocyte apoptosis by anti-TNF-alpha was observed in a subgroup of RA patients. Based on these data, it would be of interest to further study the interindividual variations of sensitivity to apoptosis induced by TNF alpha inhibitors in relation to treatment effi cacy or resistance observed in RA patients.