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A major immunoregulatory mechanism in inflammatory infections and allergic diseases is the control of the balance of cytokines secreted by Th1/Th2 subsets of T helper (Th) cells. This might also be true in autoimmune diseases; a Th2 pattern that prevents an effective immune response in infections with intracellular bacteria may favor immunosuppression in autoimmune disease. The pattern of cytokine expression was compared in the synovial tissue from patients with a typical autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and with a disorder with similar synovial pathology but driven by persisting exogenous antigen, reactive arthritis. We screened 12 rheumatoid and 9 reactive arthritis synovial tissues by PCR and in situ hybridization for their expression of T-cell cytokines. The cytokine pattern differs significantly between the two diseases; rheumatoid arthritis samples express a Th1-like pattern whereas in reactive arthritis interferon gamma expression is accompanied by that of interleukin 4. Studying the expression of cytokines by in situ hybridization confirmed the results found by PCR; they also show an extremely low frequency of cytokine-transcribing cells. In a double-staining experiment, it was demonstrated that interleukin 4 is made by CD4 cells. These experiments favor the possibility of therapeutic intervention in inflammatory rheumatic disease by means of inhibitory cytokines.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the united states of america

Publication Date





8562 - 8566


Deutsches Rheumaforschungszentrum, Berlin, Germany.


Synovial Membrane, T-Lymphocytes, T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer, Humans, Arthritis, Reactive, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, RNA, Messenger, Cytokines, In Situ Hybridization, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Gene Expression