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OBJECTIVES: While numerical and functional defects of invariant NKT cells have been demonstrated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the detailed characterization of proliferative and secretory responses following CD1d-mediated presentation is lacking; the presence of non-invariant populations has never been assessed in human autoimmunity. We have evaluated both invariant and non-invariant populations in the blood and synovial fluid from patients to assess feasibility of NKT cell-directed manipulations in RA. METHODS: NKT cell populations were quantified by anti-CD4/anti-Vα24 staining and/or CD1d tetramers. Proliferation was measured in cultures of mononuclear cells following stimulations with αGalCer and cytokine secretion determined by multi-bead assay. RESULTS: We have confirmed a proliferative defect of iNKT cells in both peripheral blood and synovial fluid from RA patients, but no changes in baseline frequencies. Moreover, we have detected an enlargement of non-invariant cell pool in synovial fluid samples. In addition, we noted an evident Th2 shift following exposure to αGalCer and pronounced IL-6 secretion. CONCLUSIONS: While RA patients suffer from defective proliferative responses of invariant NKT cells, non-invariant cells accumulate at the site of inflammation. While stimulation with αGalCer results in reduced TNF-α and increased suppressive IL-10, abundantly produced IL-6 could potentially contribute to the induction of Th17 cells in the joints.

Original publication




Journal article


Mod Rheumatol

Publication Date





434 - 442


Antigens, CD4, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Cell Proliferation, Cytokines, Humans, Joints, Natural Killer T-Cells, Synovial Fluid