In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), T cells isolated from the synovial fluid (SF) show impaired responses to mitogenic stimulation compared with T cells from the peripheral blood (PB). Here it is reported that hyporesponsiveness of SF T cells correlated with a significant decrease in the levels of the intracellular redox-regulating agent glutathione (GSH). GSH was decreased in both CD4+ (p = 0.0022) and CD8+ (p = 0.0010) SF T cell subsets compared with PB CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in RA patients. Levels of thioredoxin (TRX), another key redox mediator, previously found to be secreted under conditions of oxidative stress, were found to be significantly increased in SF compared with plasma samples of RA patients (p = 0.005). Increased levels of TRX in the SF of inflamed joints was found to be associated with RA when compared with other arthritides (p = 0.007). Restoration of GSH levels in SF T cells with N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), enhanced mitogenic induced proliferative responses and IL-2 production. Collectively, these data impute an important role to an altered redox state in the hyporesponsiveness of joint T cells in patients with RA.

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