Scandinavian journal of rheumatology

In situ analysis of interleukin-6 expression at different sites of zygapophyseal joints from patients with ankylosing spondylitis in comparison to controls.

PMID 25928402


Analysis of interleukin (IL)-6 serum levels in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) has indicated that IL-6 might be a pro-inflammatory cytokine involved in AS. However, two placebo-controlled trials with monoclonal antibodies directed against the IL-6 receptor have failed to demonstrate the efficacy of the monoclonal humanized anti-human IL-6 receptor antibody over placebo for the treatment of symptoms of AS. In this study we conducted an in situ analysis of IL-6 expression at different sites of inflammation in zygapophyseal joints of patients with AS in comparison to osteoarthritis autopsy controls (CO). Our immunohistochemical analysis involved 14 patients with AS, 12 autopsy controls (CO), and 11 patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Immunohistochemistry was performed to detect IL-6+ cells at five different sites: within subchondral bone marrow, fibrous tissue replacing subchondral bone marrow, hyaline cartilage, and the subchondral bone plate, and at entheseal sites. Apart from changes in subchondral bone marrow, no significant differences were observed at the sites analysed when comparing AS patients and controls. A significantly lower frequency of IL-6+ cells was evident in AS patients compared to controls (p = 0.0043). In addition, AS patients tended to have even lower percentages of IL-6+ cells than controls at subchondral bone plates and entheseal sites. A significantly lower number of IL-6 expressing cells was also seen within the fibrous tissue of AS compared to OA patients (p = 0.0237). This in situ analysis confirms that IL-6 is not a key player in the pathogenesis of inflammatory processes in spondyloarthritides (SpA). The relevance of pro-inflammatory agents in axial SpA might be studied better in situ in bony specimens at the primary site of inflammation.