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Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Jan;50(1):265-76.

Systemic tumor necrosis factor alpha mediates an increase in peripheral CD11bhigh osteoclast precursors in tumor necrosis factor alpha-transgenic mice.

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University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York 14642, USA. Lianping_Xing@URMC.Rochester.Edu.



To investigate the mechanisms whereby tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) increases osteoclastogenesis in vivo.


TNFalpha-transgenic (TNF-Tg) and wild-type mice injected with TNFalpha were studied. In vitro osteoclastogenesis assays, monocyte colony-forming assays, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting were performed using splenocytes, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and bone marrow cells to quantify and characterize osteoclast precursors (OCPs). Etanercept, a TNFalpha antagonist, was used to block TNFalpha activity in vivo. The effects of TNFalpha on proliferation, apoptosis, and differentiation of OCPs were assessed using 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine labeling, annexin V staining, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction.


OCP numbers were increased 4-7-fold in PBMCs and spleen, but not in bone marrow of TNF-Tg mice. The OCPs in spleen were in the CD11b(high) population and contained both c-Fms- and c-Fms+ cells. The increased number of OCPs correlated with the initiation of detectable TNFalpha in serum and the onset of inflammatory arthritis in TNF-Tg mice. Etanercept eliminated the increase in peripheral OCPs. TNFalpha did not affect proliferation, survival, or differentiation of CD11b(high) splenocytes in vivo or in vitro, but caused a rapid increase in CD11b+ cells in blood within 4 hours of a single injection and an accumulation of CD11b(high) OCPs in spleen after 3 days of multiple injections.


Systemic TNFalpha induces a marked increase in circulating OCPs that is reversible by anti-TNF therapy and may result from their mobilization from bone marrow. Our findings provide a new mechanism whereby TNFalpha stimulates osteoclastogenesis in patients with inflammatory arthritis, suggesting that CD11b+ PBMCs could be used to evaluate a patient's potential for erosive disease and the efficacy of anti-TNF therapy.

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