The identification of clonal T cells at sites of inflammation is hampered by the large number of polyclonal T cells that nonspecifically accumulate. In this report, we combine the use of T cell sorting with spectratyping of the third complementarity determining region (CDR3) and direct sequence analysis to rapidly screen for and identify clonal expansions of T cells from synovial tissue specimens from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Initially, we used a polymerase chain reaction specific for the variable region gene of the T cell receptor β chain (TCRBV) to compare the TCRBV repertoire expressed by CD4+ T cells from the peripheral blood and synovium of five patients with long-standing RA. Each patient had several TCRBV genes that were amplified to a greater degree from synovium. Extensive sequence analysis (n > 170) showed that each patient contained junctional sequences that occurred more than once, implying the presence of T cell clones within the starting CD4+ T cell population. To assess a more straightforward approach to identifying clones, six additional patients were recruited and CD4+, TCRBV2+ synovial T cells were positively selected and analyzed by CDR3 spectratyping. Bands deviating from a normal distribution were excised from the gel and sequenced directly. Clones were detected in half of the patients. These data are consistent with the possibility of an antigen-driven T cell response in RA that remains present in the setting of advanced disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy