OBJECTIVE: To determine whether myeloid cells (such as granulocytes) present in the synovial fluid (SF) of arthritic joints have an impact on adaptive immunity. Specifically, we investigated the effects of SF cells harvested from the joints of mice with proteoglycan-induced arthritis (PGIA), on dendritic cell (DC) maturation and antigen-specific T cell proliferation. METHODS: We monitored DC maturation (MHCII and CD86 expression) by flow cytometry upon coculture of DCs with SF cells or spleen myeloid cells from mice with PGIA. The effects of these myeloid cells on T cell proliferation were studied using T cells purified from PG-specific T cell receptor (TCR)-transgenic (Tg) mice. Phenotype analysis of myeloid cells was performed by immunostaining, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, and biochemical assays. RESULTS: Inflammatory SF cells significantly suppressed the maturation of DCs upon coculture. PG-TCR-Tg mouse T cells cultured with antigen-loaded DCs showed dramatic decreases in proliferation in the presence of SF cells. Spleen myeloid cells from arthritic mice did not have suppressive effects. SF cells were unable to suppress CD3/CD28-stimulated proliferation of the same T cells, suggesting a DC-dependent mechanism. SF cells exhibited all of the characteristics of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and exerted suppression primarily through the production of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species by granulocyte-like cells. CONCLUSION: SF in the joints of mice with PGIA contains a population of granulocytic MDSCs that potently suppress DC maturation and T cell proliferation. These MDSCs have the potential to limit the expansion of autoreactive T cells, thus breaking the vicious cycle of autoimmunity and inflammation.
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