Effect of JAK Inhibition on the Induction of Proinflammatory HLA–DR+CD90+ Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts by Interferon-γ

Shuyang Zhao, Ricardo Grieshaber-Bouyer, Deepak A. Rao, Philipp Kolb, Haizhang Chen, Ivana Andreeva, Theresa Tretter, Hanns Martin Lorenz, Carsten Watzl, Guido Wabnitz, Lars Oliver Tykocinski, Wolfgang Merkt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: Findings from recent transcriptome analyses of the synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have revealed that 15-fold expanded HLA–DR+CD90+ synovial fibroblasts potentially act as key mediators of inflammation. The reasons for the expansion of HLA–DR+CD90+ synovial fibroblasts are unclear, but genetic signatures indicate that interferon-γ (IFNγ) plays a central role in the generation of this fibroblast subset. The present study was undertaken to investigate the generation, function and therapeutically intended blockage of HLA–DR+CD90+ synovial fibroblasts. Methods: We combined functional assays using primary human materials and focused bioinformatic analyses of mass cytometry and transcriptomics patient data sets. Results: We detected enriched and activated Fcγ receptor type IIIa–positive (CD16+) NK cells in the synovial tissue from patients with active RA. Soluble immune complexes were recognized by CD16 in a newly described reporter cell model, a mechanism that could be contributing to the activation of natural killer (NK) cells in RA. In vitro, NK cell–derived IFNγ induced HLA–DR on CD90+ synovial fibroblasts, leading to an inflammatory, cytokine-secreting HLA–DR+CD90+ phenotype. HLA–DR+CD90+ synovial fibroblasts consecutively activated CD4+ T cells upon receptor crosslinking via superantigens. HLA–DR+CD90+ synovial fibroblasts also activated CD4+ T cells in the absence of superantigens, an effect that was initiated by NK cell–derived IFNγ and that was 4 times stronger in patients with RA compared to patients with osteoarthritis. Finally, JAK inhibition in synovial fibroblasts prevented HLA–DR induction and blocked proinflammatory signals to T cells. Conclusion: The HLA–DR+CD90+ phenotype represents an activation state of synovial fibroblasts during the process of inflammation in RA that can be induced by IFNγ, likely generated from infiltrating leukocytes such as activated NK cells. The induction of these proinflammatory, interleukin-6–producing, and likely antigen-presenting synovial fibroblasts can be targeted by JAK inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
JournalArthritis and Rheumatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of JAK Inhibition on the Induction of Proinflammatory HLA–DR+CD90+ Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts by Interferon-γ'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this