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Arthritis spontaneously develops in mice expressing a human TNF-alpha transgene modified with the 3' untranslated region of beta-globin. We have backcrossed these mice onto the arthritis-susceptible DBA/1 background and found an acceleration of the onset of arthritis with successive generations of interbreeding. Bioactive TNF-alpha in primary synovial membrane cell cultures was significantly higher in the DBA/1 transgenic mice than in transgenic mice on the original background. Elevated levels of human TNF-alpha were accompanied by increases in synovial cell expression of murine IL-1beta and IL-6, but murine granulocyte-macrophage CSF, IFN-gamma, and IL-4 could not be detected. Interestingly, the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 could be detected, but levels were not modulated by expression of the transgene. Analysis of the synovial membrane cell composition revealed that >50% of synovial cells were CD45-negative cells, presumably fibroblasts and endothelial cells, and the majority of CD45-expressing cells were neutrophils. Peritoneal macrophages and lymphocytes from the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes required LPS stimulation to produce human TNF-alpha, indicating that, when activated, cells of these lineages were capable of expressing the transgene; however, few were found in synovial tissues. In contrast, fibroblasts derived from synovial tissue spontaneously released human TNF-alpha, and using immunohistochemical techniques, this cytokine was localized to fibroblast-like cells and chondrocytes. We propose that arthritis in DBA/1 human TNF-alpha transgenic mice is driven in part through the spontaneous expression of transgene by connective tissue cells, and there is little evidence of the participation of lymphocytes in this model.


Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





2867 - 2876


Animals, Arthritis, Cytokines, Disease Models, Animal, Gene Expression, Gene Transfer Techniques, Humans, Mice, Mice, Inbred DBA, Mice, Transgenic, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha