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Mast cells are the main interleukin 17-positive cells in anticitrullinated protein antibody-positive and -negative rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis synovium

Jolien Suurmond1*, Annemarie L Dorjée1, Mariëtte R Boon1, Edward F Knol2, Tom WJ Huizinga1, René EM Toes1 and Annemie JM Schuerwegh1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, PO Box 9600, Albinusdreef 2, C1-R, NL-2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands

2 Department of Dermatology/Allergology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, NL-3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R150  doi:10.1186/ar3466

Published: 20 September 2011



Mast cells have been implicated to play a functional role in arthritis, especially in autoantibody-positive disease. Among the cytokines involved in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), IL-17 is an important inflammatory mediator. Recent data suggest that the synovial mast cell is a main producer of IL-17, although T cells have also been implicated as prominent IL-17 producers as well. We aimed to identify IL-17 expression by mast cells and T cells in synovium of arthritis patients.


Synovial samples of anticitrullinated protein antibody-positive (ACPA+) and ACPA-negative (ACPA-) RA and osteoarthritis (OA) patients were stained for IL-17 in combination with CD117 (mast cells), CD3 (T cells) and CD68 (macrophages). Concentrations of IL-17 in synovial fluid were determined by ELISA.


The number of IL-17+ cells in synovium was comparable in all groups. Although the vast majority of IL-17+ cells are mast cells, no difference in the percentage of IL-17+ mast cells was observed. Nonetheless, levels of IL-17 in synovial fluid were increased in ACPA+ RA patients compared to ACPA- RA and OA patients.


The synovial mast cell is the main IL-17+ cell in all three arthritis groups analyzed. These data are relevant for studies aimed at blocking IL-17 in the treatment of arthritis.