Adaptive immunity plays central roles in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as it is regarded as an autoimmune disease. Clinical investigations revealed infiltrations of B cells in the synovium, especially those with ectopic lymphoid neogenesis, associate with disease severity. While some B cells in the synovium differentiate into plasma cells producing autoantibodies such as anti-citrullinated protein antibody, others differentiate into effector B cells producing proinflammatory cytokines and expressing RANKL. Synovial B cells might also be important as antigen-presenting cells. Synovial T cells are implicated in the induction of antibody production as well as local inflammation. In the former, a recently identified CD4 T cell subset, peripheral helper T (Tph), which is characterized by the expression of PD-1 and production of CXCL13 and IL-21, is implicated, while the latter might be mediated by Th1-like CD4 T cell subsets that can produce multiple proinflammatory cytokines, including IFN-γ, TNF-α, and GM-CSF, and express cytotoxic molecules, such as perforin, granzymes and granulysin. CD8 T cells in the synovium are able to produce large amount of IFN-γ. However, the involvement of those lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of RA still awaits verification. Their antigen-specificity also needs to be clarified.
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