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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Balance between survivin, a key member of the apoptosis inhibitor family, and its specific antibodies determines erosivity in rheumatoid arthritis

Maria Bokarewa*, Sofia Lindblad, Dmitriy Bokarew and Andrej Tarkowski

Author Affiliations

Department of Rheumatology and Inflammation Research, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden

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Arthritis Res Ther 2005, 7:R349-R358  doi:10.1186/ar1498

Published: 21 January 2005


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a highly heterogeneous disease with respect to its joint destructivity. The reasons underlying this heterogeneity are unknown. Deficient apoptosis in rheumatoid synovial tissue has been recently demonstrated. We have therefore decided to study the synovial expression of survivin, a key member of the apoptosis inhibitor family. The levels of survivin and antibodies against survivin were assessed by an ELISA in matched blood and synovial fluid samples collected from 131 RA patients. Results were related to joint erosivity at the time of sampling. Monocytes were transfected with survivin anti-sense oligonucleotides and were assessed for their ability to produce inflammatory cytokines. Survivin levels were significantly higher in patients with destructive disease as compared with in RA patients displaying a non-erosive disease. High survivin levels were an independent prognostic parameter for erosive RA. In contrast, high levels of antibodies against survivin were found in patients with non-erosive RA, and were negatively related to erosivity. Survivin levels in RA patients were influenced by treatment, being significantly lower among patients treated with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Specific suppression of survivin mRNA resulted in downregulation of IL-6 production. We conclude that survivin determines the erosive course of RA, whereas survivin antibodies lead to a less aggressive course of the disease. These findings together with decreased survivin levels upon disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug treatment, and the downregulation of inflammatory response using survivin anti-sense oligonucleotides, suggest that extracellular survivin expression mediates the erosive course of joint disease whereas autoimmune responses to the same molecule, manifested as survivin targeting antibodies, mediate protection.

apoptosis; arthritis; autoimmunity; prognosis; survivin