Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Arthritis Research & Therapy and BioMed Central.

This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the 8th Global Arthritis Research Network (GARN) Meeting and 1st Bio-Rheumatology International Congress (BRIC)

Open Badges Poster presentation

Immune cell - derived microparticles contribute to the resistance of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts to death receptor-mediated apoptosis

Mojca Frank1*, Meike Dahlhaus1, Maria Filkova1, Christoph Kolling2, Beat A Michel1, Diego Kyburz1, Blaž Rozman3, Renate E Gay1, David Pisetsky4, Steffen Gay1 and Astrid Jüngel1

  • * Corresponding author: Mojca Frank

Author Affiliations

1 Center of Experimental Rheumatology, University Hospital Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

2 Schultess Clinic, Zürich, Switzerland

3 Department of Rheumatology, University Medical Centre Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

4 Medical Research Service, Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14(Suppl 1):P15  doi:10.1186/ar3616

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:9 February 2012

© 2012 Frank et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Immune cell-derived microparticles (MPs) are present at increased amounts in synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients [1] and can activate disease-relevant signalling pathways in RA synovial fibroblasts (SF) [2,3]. Increased resistance to apoptosis is one of the main characteristics of aggressive phenotype of RASF [4,5] and MPs have been shown to mediate both pro- and anti- apoptotic effects in different target cells [6,7]. The aim of the present study was to investigate the functional role of immune cell-derived MPs in modulating the apoptosis of SF in RA.


MPs were isolated by the differential centrifugation from cell culture supernatants of U937 cells, untreated or stimulated with TNFα or poly(I:C) for 16 h. Flow cytometry was used to measure the counts and surface expression of CD4 and Fas on MP. Proinflammatory response of RASF induced by MPs was determined by measuring IL-6 protein levels by ELISA. Proliferation of OASF (n = 3) and RASF (n = 4) stimulated with MPs for 24 h was investigated by MTT Cell Proliferation Assay. Functional role of MPs (after 24 h treatment) in spontaneous apoptosis and apoptosis mediated by Fas Ligand (FasL) or TNFα-Related Apoptosis Inducing Ligand (TRAIL) was measured by flow cytometry using Annexin V/propidium iodide staining of RASF and OASF.


Poly(I:C)-induced MPs but not MPs from unstimulated U937 cells increased the production of IL-6 in RASF (mean ± SE: 1873 ± 325 pg/mL, p = 0.002, n = 9 and 476 ± 182 pg/mL, n = 6, respectively) when compared to unstimulated RASF (304 ± 61 pg/mL, n = 9). No changes in proliferation or spontaneous rate of apoptosis were observed in RASF or OASF stimulated with MPs. Treatment of RASF (n = 5) and OASF (n = 5) with FasL or treatment of RASF (n = 7) with TRAIL for 24 h significantly increased apoptosis of SF (p = 0.010; p = 0.036 and p = 0.016, respectively). Poly(I:C)-induced MPs inhibit FasL-induced apoptosis of RASF (% decrease ± SE: 40.2 ± 7.0%; p = 0.001; n = 5) and OASF (41.1 ± 9.5%; p = 0.036, n = 5) and decreased TRAIL-induced apoptosis of RASF (29.9 ± 6.8%, p = 0.093). In contrast, TNFα-induced MPs had no effect on Fas-induced apoptosis in SF (n = 3). MPs from untreated U937 cells did not influence FasL- or TRAIL-induced apoptosis of RASF (n = 5) and OASF (n = 4). Fas was not expressed on the surface of MPs, indicating that Poly(I:C)-induced MP did not act as a decoy to decrease the effective concentration of FasL in cell culture supernatants.


Immune cells and SF can communicate via MPs. The impairment of the death receptor-induced apoptosis pathway mediated by immune cell-derived MPs may contribute to synovial hyperplasia and joint destruction in RA.


This work was supported by IAR-EPALINGES, FP7 Masterswitch, and ARTICULUM Fellowship.


  1. Berckmans RJ, Nieuwland R, Kraan MC, Schaap MC, Pots D, Smeets TJ, Sturk A, Tak PP: Synovial microparticles from arthritic patients modulate chemokine and cytokine release by synoviocytes.

    Arthritis Res Ther 2005, 7(3):R536-544. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  2. Beyer C, Pisetsky DS: The role of microparticles in the pathogenesis of rheumatic diseases.

    Nat Rev Rheumatol 2010, 6(1):21-29. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  3. Distler JH, Jüngel A, Huber LC, Seemayer CA, Reich CF, Gay RE, Michel BA, Fontana A, Gay S, Pisetsky DS, Distler O: The induction of matrix metalloproteinase and cytokine expression in synovial fibroblasts stimulated with immune cell microparticles.

    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2005, 102(8):2892-2897. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  4. Pundt N, Peters MA, Wunrau C, Strietholt S, Fehrmann C, Neugebauer K, Seyfert C, van Valen F, Pap T, Meinecke I: Susceptibility of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis is cell cycle-dependent.

    Arthritis Res Ther 2009, 11(1):R16. PubMed Abstract | BioMed Central Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  5. Korb A, Pavenstädt H, Pap T: Cell death in rheumatoid arthritis.

    Apoptosis 2009, 14(4):447-454. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  6. Distler JH, Akhmetshina A, Dees C, Jüngel A, Stürzl M, Gay S, Pisetsky DS, Schett G, Distler O: Induction of apoptosis in circulating angiogenic cells by microparticles.

    Arthritis Rheum 2011, 63(7):2067-2077. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  7. Castellana D, Zobairi F, Martinez MC, Panaro MA, Mitolo V, Freyssinet JM, Kunzelmann C: Membrane microvesicles as actors in the establishment of a favorable prostatic tumoral niche: a role for activated fibroblasts and CX3CL1-CX3CR1 axis.

    Cancer Res 2009, 69(3):785-793. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL