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Cell and matrix adhesion of lymphocytes participates in homing, migration and accumulation of these cells in inflamed tissues as well as in the generation of immune and inflammatory responses. In inflamed joints of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, lymphocytes accumulate in the synovial membrane and the synovial fluid. In the present study we have analyzed the expression of integrins and other adhesion molecules in synovial fluid lymphocytes (RA-SFL) and paired peripheral blood lymphocytes (RA-PBL) from 21 RA patients by immunofluorescence flow cytometry. We have also investigated the expression of these adhesion molecules on peripheral blood lymphocytes obtained from 13 sex- and age-matched healthy controls (CO-PBL). RA-SFL, which consisted mostly of T cells, showed higher expression of the integrin subunits beta 1 (CD29), VLA-1 alpha, -3 alpha, -4 alpha, -5 alpha and -6 alpha when compared to RA-PBL. In turn, RA-PBL showed lower expression of these molecules than CO-PBL. The expression of the immunoglobulin-related molecules CD2, CD54 (ICAM-1) and CD58 (LFA-3) was higher on RA-SFL when compared to RA-PBL or CO-PBL, and similar results were obtained with the beta 2 integrin subunits CD11a and CD18. In contrast, L-selectin (LECAM-1) and ICAM-2 were expressed at much lower levels on RA-SFL than on RA-PBL or CO-PBL. CD44, a receptor for hyaluronic acid and collagen, was expressed by most RA-SFL, RA-PBL and CO-PBL cells but at higher density on RA-SFL. The results indicate that RA-SFL express a distinct array of adhesion molecules, similar to the one of memory T lymphocytes. This characteristic phenotype may contribute to the lymphocytic infiltration of the synovium and to the pathogenesis of RA.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur j immunol

Publication Date





2879 - 2885


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Antigens, CD, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Cell Adhesion Molecules, Female, Humans, Integrins, Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1, L-Selectin, Lymphocytes, Male, Middle Aged, Synovial Fluid