Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Previous studies in the laboratory have shown that the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The mechanisms involved in regulating monocyte/macrophage cytokine production are not yet fully understood, but are thought to involve both soluble factors and cell/cell contact with other cell types. We and others have previously demonstrated that T cells activated through the T cell receptor/CD3 complex induce monocyte TNF-alpha production by contact-mediated signals. In this report, we investigated further whether T cells activated by cytokines in the absence of T cell receptor stimulation also regulate monocyte cytokine production. T cells were activated in an antigen-independent manner using the cytokines interleukin (IL)-15 or IL-2 alone, or in combination with IL-6 and TNF-alpha. Subsequently, T cells were fixed and incubated with monocytes. Fixed, cytokine-stimulated T cells induced monocytes to secrete TNF-alpha in a dose-dependent manner, but did not induce secretion of IL-10, a potent endogenous down-regulator of TNF-alpha and other pro-inflammatory cytokines. Stimulation of monocyte TNF-alpha was markedly inhibited when T cells were physically separated from monocytes within the tissue culture well, confirming that T cell contact is necessary. T cell acquisition of monocyte-activating capacity was shown to be dependent on the period of cytokine stimulation, with T cells activated for 8 days more effective than T cells activated for shorter periods. Addition of interferon-gamma or granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor to the T cell/monocyte cultures enhanced T cell induction of monocyte TNF-alpha by threefold and ninefold, respectively. The results from this model of cognate interaction suggest that cytokine-stimulated T cells, interacting with macrophages in the rheumatoid synovial membrane, may contribute to the continuous excessive production of TNF-alpha observed in the RA joint, and to the imbalance of pro-inflammatory cytokines over anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur j immunol

Publication Date





624 - 632


Antigens, Surface, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Cell Communication, Cells, Cultured, Cytokines, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor, Humans, Immunophenotyping, Interferon-gamma, Interleukin-10, Interleukin-15, Interleukin-2, Interleukin-6, Monocytes, T-Lymphocytes, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha