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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Effects of inflammatory cytokine IL-27 on the activation of fibroblast-like synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis

Chun K Wong1, Da P Chen1, Lai S Tam2, Edmund K Li2, Yi B Yin3 and Christopher WK Lam4*

  • * Corresponding author: Christopher WK Lam

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemical Pathology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Ngan Shing Street, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong

2 Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Ngan Shing Street, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong

3 Key Laboratory of Diagnostic Medicine designated by the Ministry of Education, Chongqing Medical University, Yu Zhong Qu, Yi Xue Yuan Lu, Chongqing, 400016, PR China

4 Macau Institute for Applied Research in Medicine and Health, Macau University of Science and Technology, Avenida Wai Long, Taipa, Macau

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2010, 12:R129  doi:10.1186/ar3067

Published: 6 July 2010



Interleukin (IL)-27 is a novel member of the IL-6/IL-12 family cytokines that are produced early by antigen-presenting cells in T helper (Th)1-mediated inflammation. Elevated expression of IL-27 has been detected in the synovial membranes and fluid of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


We investigated the in vitro effects of IL-27, alone or in combination with inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α or IL-1 β on the pro-inflammatory activation of human primary fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) from RA patients and normal control subjects, and the underlying intracellular signaling molecules were determined by intracellular staining using flow cytometry.


Significantly higher plasma concentration of IL-27 was found in RA patients (n = 112) than control subjects (n = 46). Both control and RA-FLS constitutively express functional IL-27 receptor heterodimer, gp130 and WSX-1, with more potent IL-27-mediated activation of signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT)1 in RA-FLS. IL-27 was found to induce significantly higher cell surface expression of intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1 and release of inflammatory chemokine IL-6, CCL2, CXCL9, CXCL10 and matrix metalloproteinase-1 of RA-FLS than that of control FLS (all P < 0.05). Moreover, an additive or synergistic effect was observed in the combined treatment of IL-27 and TNF-α or IL-1 β on the surface expression of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 and the release of CXCL9 and CXCL10 of RA-FLS. Further investigations showed that the expression of ICAM-1, VCAM-1 and chemokines stimulated by IL-27 was differentially regulated by intracellular activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-OH kinase-AKT, c-Jun amino-terminal kinase and Janus kinase pathways.


Our results therefore provide a new insight into the IL-27-activated immunopathological mechanisms mediated by distinct intracellular signal transductions in joint inflammation of RA.