[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study was to demonstrate, by nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC), the existence of diagnostic and follow-up parameters of microvascular damage in systemic sclerosis (SS) (grouped in the "early", "active" and "late" NVC patterns). The presence of the different subsets of skin involvement (limSS and difSS), as well as the role of some specific serum autoantibodies in the expression of the NVC parameters were investigated.
245 consecutive SS patients were recruited and clinical data assessed. Antinuclear (ANA), antitopoisomerase I (Scl70) and anticentromere (ACA) antibodies were investigated in all patients.
Giant capillaries and hemorrhages were confirmed to be the earliest NVC finding in SS (diagnostic parameters). The loss of capillaries, along with ramified capillaries and vascular architectural disorganization were validated as parameters of progression of SS microangiopathy. Really, both Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) and SS duration were detected longer in patients with the "late" than in those with the "active" or the "early" NVC pattern. Patients affected by limSS were found to have shorter disease duration, as well as showed more frequently the "early" or the "active" NVC patterns. Conversely, patients affected by the difSS showed longer disease duration and mostly the presence of the "active" or "late" NVC pattern. The Scl70 positivity was lower in the patients showing the "early" than in those with the "active" and the "late" NVC patterns, whereas no significant correlation was found between the Scl70 presence and both RP and SS duration. The ACA positivity was higher in patients showing the "early" NVC pattern, as well as in patients with longer disease duration.
This study confirms that the identification of distinct NVC patterns may be useful to evaluate the severity and the stage of the SS microvascular damage. The presence of the Scl70 antibodies seems related to a more rapid progression of the SS microangiopathy. On the contrary, the presence of the ACA seems to be related to a slower progression of the SS microvascular damage. The SS peripheral microangiopathy is similar as in patients with limSS, as in those affected by difSS.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of 17beta-estradiol (E2) and testosterone (T) on the mRNA expression of IL-1beta, IL-6, TNF-alpha and TGF-beta in cultured human monocytic cells (THP-1) after INF-gamma activation.
THP-1 were cultured with E2 and T (10 nM) for 24 hs and then activated with INF-gamma (500 U/ml), during different periods of time (1, 3, 6, and 12 hs). After total RNA extraction, all samples were analyzed by multiple RT-PCR to detect mRNA expression of the selected cytokines.
Cells cultured without hormonal treatment expressed IL-1beta mRNA after 1 h; on the contrary TNF-alpha, TGF-beta and IL-6 mRNA were expressed only after 3 hs. At 6 and 12 hs only IL-6 mRNA was still expressed. Interestingly, cells cultured with testosterone never expressed IL-1beta nor TNF-alpha mRNA and showed an IL-6 mRNA expression similar to the untreated controls at 3, 6 and 12 hours. On the contrary, cells treated with E2 showed the expression of all cytokines at 3 and 12 hs, and in general showed an higher expression of all the analyzed cytokines mRNA when compared to the other conditions.
This study suggests that sex hormones may modulate the cytokine mRNA expression in the inflammatory cells. In fact, T inhibits TNF-alpha production at all the tested times, whereas E2 seems to accelerate and to enhance the inflammatory response. Therefore, the altered sex hormone ratio, as observed in the synovial fluid of RA patients (high E2/low T), might contribute to the occurrence and last of synovitis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Microvascular lesions are a predominant feature in systemic sclerosis (SSc) and seem to play a central pathogenetic role. Recently, we graded scleroderma microangiopathy by nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC) into three NVC patterns (early, active and late). The aim of the present study was to confirm, in a larger number of SSc patients, the presence of three patterns of microvascular damage, and to detect any possible relationship between these patterns and both specific serum autoantibodies and the subsets of cutaneous involvement.
Two hundred and forty-one consecutive patients (227 women and 14 men) affected by SSc were recruited. One hundred and forty-eight patients were affected by limited cutaneous SSc (lSSc) and 93 patients by diffuse cutaneous SSc (dSSc). The ages at onset of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) and SSc, the durations of RP and SSc, ANA and antitopoisomerase I (anti-Scl70) and anticentromere (ACA) antibodies were investigated in all patients. The SSc patients were subdivided on the basis of the NVC pattern into three groups.
A statistically significant correlation was found between the NVC patterns and the durations of both RP and SSc (P<0.001). Enlarged and giant capillaries, together with haemorrhages, constituted the earliest NVC finding in SSc (early NVC pattern). These abnormalities were mostly expressed in the active NVC pattern. Loss of capillaries, ramified capillaries and vascular architectural disorganization were increased in the late NVC pattern. Age and the duration of both RP and SSc were lower in 24 patients complaining of RP alone. Anti-Scl70 antibodies were statistically less frequent in the early vs both the active and the late NVC pattern, whereas no significant correlation was found between the presence of anti-Scl70 antibodies and the duration of either RP or SSc. ACA positivity was more frequent in patients with longer RP duration. Patients with lSSc had shorter SSc duration and showed the early or active NVC pattern more frequently. Conversely, patients with dSSc showed longer disease duration and mostly showed the late NVC pattern.
NVC is an appropriate tool for differential diagnosis between primary and secondary RP through the clear recognition of the early NVC scleroderma pattern. This study confirms, in a large number of SSc patients, the existence of three distinct NVC patterns that might reflect the evolution of SSc microangiopathy. The presence of anti-Scl70 antibodies seems be related to earlier expression of the active and late NVC patterns of SSc microvascular damage. The presence of ACA seems to be related to delayed expression of the late NVC pattern.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated whether the non-invasive determination of coronary flow reserve (CFR), as evaluated by transthoracic Doppler echocardiography, might be a potential method to detect early dysfunction of cardiovascular system in patients affected by systemic sclerosis (SSc) without clinical signs or symptoms of cardiac impairment. The possible correlations between the CFR values and the duration of the disease, specific autoantibodies and cutaneous involvement subsets were investigated.
Forty-four consecutive patients affected by SSc were analysed. The CFR was detected in the distal left anterior descending coronary artery by contrast-enhanced transthoracic second harmonic Doppler in all SSc patients and in 16 healthy controls. CFR was assessed at rest and during hyperaemia induced by administration of adenosine at 0.14 mg/kg/min over 5 min. The CFR was calculated as the ratio between hyperaemic (peak adenosine infusion) and resting peak diastolic velocity (PdvCFR) and resting velocity time integral (VtiCFR). Past medical history was carefully investigated.
Both PdvCFR and VtiCFR were significantly reduced in SSc patients when compared with controls (P<0.0001). In particular, both PdvCFR and VtiCFR were significantly lower in patients with dSSc when compared with patients affected by lSSc (P<0.02 and P<0.04 respectively). No statistically significant correlation was found between CFR values and history of smoking, serum levels of cholesterol or triglycerides, blood pressure, age of patients, duration of SSc and serum autoantibody positivity for ANA, ACA and Scl70.
CFR is often reduced in SSc patients. CFR was lower in patients with dSSc than in those affected by lSSc. A reduced CFR value should be considered an indirect sign of heart involvement in scleroderma, but its clinical and prognostic implications need to be clarified.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as well as most autoimmune disorders results from a combination of several predisposing factors including the relations between epitopes of the trigger agent (i.e., virus, self-antigens) and histocompatibility epitopes (i.e., HLA), the status of the stress response system including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPA) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), as well as the gonadal hormones (hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, HPG), with estrogens implicated as enhancers of the immune response and androgens and progesterone as natural suppressors. The regular observation of reduced cortisol and adrenal androgen secretion during testing in RA patients not treated with glucocorticoids should clearly be regarded as "relative adrenal insufficiency" in the setting of a sustained inflammatory process, as shown by high interleukin (IL)-6 levels. In polymyalgia rheumatica, several pathogenetic and clinical aspects of the disease might well overlap RA, at least with elderly onset RA (EORA). Therefore, reduced production of adrenal hormones (i.e., cortisol, DHEAS) at baseline in active and untreated patients with polymyalgia rheumatica was detected. The defect was mainly related to altered adrenal responsiveness to ACTH stimulation (i.e., increased 17-OHP), at least in untreated patients with polymyalgia rheumatica. Finally, normal serum estrogen and low androgen levels, but high synovial fluid estrogen and much lower androgen levels, have been found in RA patients, supporting the fundamental role of the peripheral sex hormone metabolism in the manifestations of the disease.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 06/2003; 992:107-17. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Leflunomide and its active metabolite A77 1726 reversibly inhibits the enzyme dihydro-orotate dehydrogenase, the rate limiting step in de novo synthesis of pyrimidines and progression of the cell cycle in different cell lines, mainly activated T lymphocytes.
To analyse in vitro the possible anti-inflammatory effects exerted by A77 1726, on cultured macrophages, obtained from the synovial tissues of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The effects of different doses of A77 1726 on intracytoplasmic expression and extracellular concentration of inflammatory cytokines (tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha), interleukin (IL) 1beta, IL6), as well as the influence on production and expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2) by primary cultures of synovial macrophages from patients with RA, were evaluated by immunocytochemistry and western blot analysis. The observations were made at four and 24 hours.
A progressive and significant time and dose dependent decrease of the number of positive macrophages for intracellular TNFalpha and IL1beta, treated with different doses of A77 1726, was found in comparison with untreated cells. The extracellular concentration of TNFalpha was found to be significantly decreased in media containing cultured macrophages at 24 hours for all tested doses of A77 1726. At 24 hours, a significant time and dose dependent decrease of ICAM-1 and COX-2 expression by cultured macrophages after A77 1726 treatment was found.
In conclusion, the mechanism of antiproliferative activity exerted by leflunomide on activated T lymphocytes seems to be the same mechanism (alteration of the cell cycle progression) which interferes with the functions of other activated cells-namely, the monocytes/macrophages, which are strongly involved in the inflammatory reaction in RA synovial tissue. The positive clinical results seem to confirm that leflunomide exerts an anti-inflammatory action on phagocytic cells in short and long term treatment of RA.
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 05/2003; 62(4):297-302. · 9.11 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sex hormones are implicated in the immune response, with estrogens as enhancers at least of the humoral immunity and androgens and progesterone as natural immune-suppressors. In male rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, androgen replacement seems to ameliorate the disease and supports their involvement in the pathophysiology of the disease. The combination of androgens with cyclosporin A or methotrexate has been found to potentiate the apoptosis of monocytic inflammatory cells as well as to reduce the cell growth at least in vitro. Considerable interest has been devoted in the last years as to whether the use of oral contraceptive pills (OCs) may have a protective effect on the risk of RA. The results of many controlled studies have been found contradictory. At the present time, no consensus has been achieved regarding OCs administration and its relationship to the prevention or development of RA. In addition, an association of estrogen receptor gene polymorphism with age at onset of RA has been observed and might further explain inter-individual clinical and therapeutical-response variations. Local increased estrogen concentrations and decreased androgen levels have been observed in RA synovial fluids and seem to play a more important role in the immune/inflammatory local response.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Generally, androgens exert suppressive effects on both humoral and cellular immune responses and seem to represent natural anti-inflammatory hormones; in contrast, estrogens exert immunoenhancing activities, at least on humoral immune response. Low levels of gonadal androgens (testosterone/dihydrotestosterone) and adrenal androgens (dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate), as well as lower androgen/estrogen ratios, have been detected in body fluids (that is, blood, synovial fluid, smears, salivary) of both male and female rheumatoid arthritis patients, supporting the possibility of a pathogenic role for the decreased levels of the immune-suppressive androgens. Several physiological, pathological, and therapeutic conditions may change the sex hormone milieu and/or peripheral conversion, including the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the postpartum period, menopause, chronic stress, and inflammatory cytokines, as well as use of corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, and steroid hormonal replacements, inducing altered androgen/estrogen ratios and related effects. Therefore, sex hormone balance is still a crucial factor in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses, and the therapeutical modulation of this balance should represent part of advanced biological treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune rheumatic diseases.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 07/2002; 966:131-42. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper aims to evaluate adrenal gland hormone levels in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) during glucocorticoid (GC) therapy. A lower than expected basal production of cortisol was found in active and glucocorticoid-untreated PMR patients, particularly females. The abrupt onset of PMR with clinical features similar to those of the steroid-withdrawal syndrome or adrenal insufficiency, as well as the clinical response to GC therapy in elderly people already age-disposed to an inadequate adrenal and anti-inflammatory response, might represent the most significant pathophysiological basis of the disease.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 07/2002; 966:91-6. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Methotrexate (MTX) is believed to exert both antiproliferative and antiinflammatory effects in a dose-related manner in a majority of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients along with an abrupt flare of the disease after drug discontinuation. To investigate the antiproliferative and antiinflammatory actions of MTX and the combined action of sex hormones, we evaluated these effects in differentiated monocytic myeloid cells (THP-1) prestimulated with testosterone (T) or 17-beta estradiol (E2). The effects of MTX and T combined treatment (T/MTX) on THP-1 cells showed a significant inhibition of cell proliferation when compared with E2/MTX- treated cells or controls: 53% at 72 h versus E2-treated cells; 58% at 96 h versus E2-treated cells; and 41% versus controls, respectively. Bax and Fas CD95 expression was found increased in T-treated cells: 14% T at 48 h vs. E(2)-treated cells and controls; 45% T at 72 h versus E2-treated cells and controls; 97% at 96 h versus E2-treated cells and 37% versus controls for Bax: 33%, 41%, and 42% T versus E2-treated cells for Fas. Moreover, a significant decrease of IL-12 levels in T/MTX treated cells was found at any time when compared to E2-treated cells. In summary, the association of testosterone and MTX compared to MTX alone suggests possible synergistic actions. Therefore, the enhancing antiinflammatory effects exerted by androgens might represent a further explanation for the reduced frequency of inflammatory diseases in male subjects.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 07/2002; 966:232-7. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several authors have reported the regulation of apoptotic phenomena by sex hormones in different cell lines, including T lymphocytes and mononuclear cells. Since androgens can modulate the programmed cell death in responsive cell lines, we decided to investigate the induction of apoptosis in THP-1 cells following their differentiation into macrophage-like cells and exposure to sex hormones. In addition, we decided to evaluate the proto-oncogene Bax and Fas (CD 95) and cleaved PARP (poly-adp-ribose-polymerase) expression in the same cultured cells. The results showed for the first time the dose-/time-dependent regulation of the apoptotic event in human monocytic THP-1 cells treated with different concentrations of androgens. No significant changes were observed for estrogen-treated and unstimulated control cells. In particular, the cells, after stimulation with androgens but not with estrogens, were found to be positive for the proto-oncogene Bax, Fas, and for cleaved subunits of PARP expression as demonstrated with different assays including immunocytochemical assay and Western blot analysis. In conclusion, these results support the possibility of sex hormone modulation of apoptosis in macrophage-like cells, with interesting therapeutic perspectives in rheumatoid arthritis.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 07/2002; 966:204-10. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The pineal hormone melatonin (MLT) exerts a variety of effects on the immune system. MLT activates immune cells and enhances inflammatory cytokine and nitric oxide production. Cytokines are strongly involved in the synovial immune and inflammatory response in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and reach the peak of concentration in the early morning, when MLT serum level is higher. Nocturnal MLT serum levels were evaluated in 10 RA patients and in 6 healthy controls. Blood samples were obtained at 8 and 12 p.m., as well as at 2, 4, 6, and 8 a.m. MLT serum levels at 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. were found to be higher in RA patients than in controls (p < 0.05). In both RA patients and healthy subjects, MLT progressively increased from 8 p.m. to the first hours of the morning, when the peak level was reached (p < 0.02). However, MLT serum level reached the peak at least two hours before in RA patients than in controls (p < 0.05). Subsequently, in RA patients, MLT concentration showed a plateau level lasting two to three hours, an effect not observed in healthy controls. After 2 a.m., MLT levels decreased similarly in both RA patients and healthy subjects. Several clinical symptoms of RA, such as morning gelling, stiffness, and swelling, which are more evident in the early morning, might be related to the neuroimmunomodulatory effects exerted by MLT on synovitis and might be explained by the imbalance between cortisol serum levels (lower in RA patients) and MLT serum levels (higher in RA patients).
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 06/2002; 966:276-83. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Microvascular involvements represent one of the first step in many autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma (SSc) or antiphospholipid syndrome. Early in the disease, the peripheral microangiopathy may be well recognised and studied by nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC), a noninvasive and safe technique, that is reported to have both diagnostic and prognostic value, especially in the presence of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP). The classification of defined major NVC patterns in SSc might be useful in assessing the appearance and progression of the sclerodermic microangiopathy. In addition, the NVC changes might represent a morphological reproduction of the evolution of the SSc. The early appearance of giant capillaries and haemorrhages (Early pattern) is of great relevance for the early diagnosis of the SSc. Therefore, these alterations are more evident in the active phase of the disease (Active pattern). Conversely, the NVC observation of loss of capillaries, vascular architectural disorganisation and the presence of ramified/bushy capillaries (Late pattern) represents the clearest aspect of advanced SSc microvascular damages. Interesting, correlations between the NVC and clinical aspects of SSc, as well as the effects of therapeutical interventions have been observed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SUMMARY Microvascular involvements represent one of the first step in many autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma (SSc) or antiphospholipid syndrome. Early in the disease, the peripheral microangiopathy may be well recognised and stud- ied by nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC), a noninvasive and safe technique, that is reported to have both diagnostic and prognostic value, especially in the presence of Raynaud ' s phenomenon (RP). The classification of defined major NVC patterns in SSc might be useful in assessing the appearance and progression of the sclerodermic microangiopathy. In addition, the NVC changes might represent a morphological reproduction of the evolution of the SSc. The early appearance of giant capillaries and haemorrhages (Early pattern) is of great relevance for the early diag- nosis of the SSc. Therefore, these alterations are more evident in the active phase of the disease (Active pattern). Con- verserly, the NVC observation of loss of capillaries, vascular architectural disorganisation and the presence of ram- ified/bushy capillaries (Late pattern) represents the clearest aspect of advanced SSc microvascular damages. Inter- esting, correlations between the NVC and clinical aspects of SSc, as well as the effects of therapeutical intervenctions have been observed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Methotrexate (MTX) is a folic acid analogue with antiproliferative and antiinflammatory effects. In the past several years, MTX has become the most commonly used agent in patients with severe, destructive psoriatic arthritis (PsA), with positive clinical results. Liver changes and serum enzyme level increases do not seem to be a major problem in PSA patients treated with MTX. In addition, PSA patients treated with low-dose MTX were not associated with pulmonary fibrosis as evaluated by means of sensitive imaging techniques and pulmonary function tests. The concomitant use of folic acid reduces both the frequency of serum liver enzyme level increases but also the efficacy of MTX by competing with the folate receptors.