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Antigen-specific suppression of inflammatory arthritis by dendritic cells


Antigen-specific suppression of a previously primed immune response is a major challenge for immunotherapy of autoimmune disease. We have shown that NF-κB inactivation in dendritic cells (modified DC) converts them into cells that tolerize rather than immunize to specific antigen [1]. Antigen-exposed modified DC prevent priming of immunity, and they suppress previously primed immune responses. Regulatory CD4+ T cells, which can transfer antigen-specific tolerance in an IL-10-dependent fashion, mediate the tolerance. We hypothesized that modified DC exposed to arthritogenic antigen would suppress clinical arthritis after disease onset.


Antigen-induced arthritis was induced in C57/Bl6 mice by priming to methylated bovine serum albumin (mBSA) antigen followed by challenge injection of mBSA to one knee. Knee swelling was apparent within 2 days, with peak clinical signs apparent at 5 days. Mice were treated with antigen-exposed modified DC between 2 and 6 days after mBSA challenge to the knee joint.


Clinical arthritis was suppressed in each group receiving mBSA-exposed modified DC within 4 days compared with mice that received either no DC or keyhole limpet hemocyanin-exposed modified DC. Clinical improvement was associated with mBSA-specific tolerance in mice receiving mBSA-exposed modified DC. Tolerance induction was not impaired by concomitant administration of anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha monoclonal antibody. Subsequent rechallenge with intra-articular IL-1 induced flare of arthritis in all groups, which could be effectively suppressed by a second administration of mBSA-exposed modified DC.


The data indicate that modified DC induce antigen-specific immune suppression in this model of inflammatory arthritis, even after full clinical expression of the disease. These observations have important implications for antigen-specific therapy of autoimmunity.


  1. Martin , et al: Immunity. 2003, 18: 155-10.1016/S1074-7613(02)00503-4.

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Thomas, R., Martin, E. & O'Sullivan, B. Antigen-specific suppression of inflammatory arthritis by dendritic cells. Arthritis Res Ther 5 (Suppl 3), 107 (2003).

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