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Logo of annrheumdAnnals of the Rheumatic DiseasesCurrent TOCInstructions for authors
Ann Rheum Dis. Apr 2000; 59(4): 311–314.
PMCID: PMC1753104

Response to methotrexate in early rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a decrease of T cell derived tumour necrosis factor α, increase of interleukin 10, and predicted by the initial concentration of interleukin 4


OBJECTIVE—This study was performed to assess whether there is any change in the T cell cytokine pattern in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients treated with methotrexate (MTX) and whether the lymphocytic cytokine pattern correlates with disease activity.
METHODS—Eight patients with RA (disease duration < six months) were studied serially before, after three, and after six to nine months of treatment with MTX for the cytokines tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα), interferon γ (IFNγ), interleukin 4 (IL4) and interleukin 10 (IL10) by intracellular staining of T cells derived from peripheral blood. Response to treatment was assessed by the modified disease activitiy score.
RESULTS—The clincial response was accompanied by a significant decrease of TNFα positive CD4+ T cells from a median of 8.53% (interquartile range 5.83-10.91%) before treatment to 6.17% (2.15-6.81%) after six to nine months of treatment (p=0.021). Inversely, IL10 positive T cells increased from a median of 0.65% (interquartile range 0.6-0.93%) to a median of 1.3% (1.22%-1.58%) after six to nine months of treatment (p=0.009). No significant change in the percentage of INFγ positive T cells and a small decrease of IL4 positive T cells during treatment were observed. The percentage of IL4 positive CD4+ T cells before treatment correlated with disease activity after six to nine months (r= −0.7066; p=0.05).
CONCLUSIONS—During treatment of RA with MTX the percentage of TNFα producing T cells decreases whereas that of IL10 producing T cells increases. This may affect macrophage activation and, therefore, may represent a regulatory mechanism relevant to disease remission. Furthermore, the percentage of IL4 positive CD4+ T cells at disease onset may be a useful prognostic marker.

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Figures and Tables

Figure 1
Percentage of (A) TNFα and (B) IL10 positive CD4+ T cells in eight patients with early RA expressed as median (boxes) and interquartile range (bars) before, after three months, and after six to nine months of treatment with MTX. The modified ...
Figure 2
Correlation of disease activity score (mDAS) after six to nine months of treatment with methotrexate in eight patients with early RA (each filled box indicates one patient) with the percentage of IL4 positive CD4+ T cells before treatment.

Articles from Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


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