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J Immunol. 2005 Aug 15;175(4):2579-88.

Interaction between synovial inflammatory tissue and bone marrow in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine III, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) leads to destruction of cartilage and bone. Whether rheumatoid arthritis also affects the adjacent bone marrow is less clear. In this study, we investigated subcortical bone marrow changes in joints from patients with RA. We describe penetration of the cortical barrier by synovial inflammatory tissue, invasion into the bone marrow cavity and formation of mononuclear cell aggregates with B cells as the predominant cell phenotype. B cells expressed common B cell markers, such as CD20, CD45RA, and CD79a, and were mature B cells, as indicated by CD27 expression. Plasma cells were also present and were enriched in the regions between aggregates and inflammatory tissue. Moreover, molecules for B cell chemoattraction, such as BCA-1 and CCL-21, homing, mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule-1 and survival, BAFF, were expressed. Endosteal bone next to subcortical bone marrow aggregates showed an accumulation of osteoblasts and osteoid deposition. In summary, we show that synovial inflammatory tissue can reach the adjacent bone marrow by fully breaking the cortical barrier, which results in formation of B cell-rich aggregates as well as increased formation of new bone. This suggests that bone marrow is an additional compartment in the disease process of RA.

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