BMC musculoskeletal disorders

Characterization of multinucleated giant cells in synovium and subchondral bone in knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

PMID 26311062


Multinucleated giant cells have been noticed in diverse arthritic conditions since their first description in rheumatoid synovium. However, their role in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) still remains broadly unknown. We aimed to study the presence and characteristics of multinucleated giant cells (MGC) both in synovium and in subchondral bone tissues of patients with OA or RA. Knee synovial and subchondral bone samples were from age-matched patients undergoing total joint replacement for OA or RA, or non-arthritic post mortem (PM) controls. OA synovium was stratified by histological inflammation grade using index tissue sections. Synovitis was assessed by Krenn score. Histological studies employed specific antibodies against macrophage markers or cathepsin K, or TRAP enzymatic assay. Inflamed OA and RA synovia displayed more multinucleated giant cells than did non-inflamed OA and PM synovia. There was a significant association between MGC numbers and synovitis severity. A TRAP negative/cathepsin K negative Langhans-like subtype was predominant in OA, whereas both Langhans-like and TRAP-positive/cathepsin K-negative foreign-body-like subtypes were most commonly detected in RA. Plasma-like and foam-like subtypes also were observed in OA and RA synovia, and the latter was found surrounding adipocytes. TRAP positive/cathepsin K positive osteoclasts were only identified adjacent to subchondral bone surfaces. TRAP positive osteoclasts were significantly increased in subchondral bone in OA and RA compared to PM controls. Multinucleated giant cells are associated with synovitis severity, and subchondral osteoclast numbers are increased in OA, as well as in RA. Further research targeting multinucleated giant cells is warranted to elucidate their contributions to the symptoms and joint damage associated with arthritis.