Macrophages and CD4 T-cells in rheumatoid arthritis and their modulation by JAK inhibitors

Nijjar, Jagtar Singh (2015) Macrophages and CD4 T-cells in rheumatoid arthritis and their modulation by JAK inhibitors. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that causes significant morbidity and mortality and has no cure. Although early treatment strategies and biologic therapies such as TNFα blocking antibodies have revolutionised treatment, there still remains considerable unmet need. JAK kinase inhibitors, which target multiple inflammatory cytokines, have shown efficacy in treating RA although their exact mechanism of action remains to be determined. Stratified medicine promises to deliver the right drug to the right patient at the right time by using predictive ‘omic biomarkers discovered using bioinformatic and “Big Data” techniques. Therefore, knowledge across the realms of clinical rheumatology, applied immunology, bioinformatics and data science is required to realise this goal.


To use bioinformatic tools to analyse the transcriptome of CD14 macrophages derived from patients with inflammatory arthritis and define a JAK/STAT signature. Thereafter to investigate the role of JAK inhibition on inflammatory cytokine production in a macrophage cell contact activation assay. Finally, to investigate JAK inhibition, following RA synovial fluid stimulation of monocytes.

Methods and Results:

Using bioinformatic software such as limma from the Bioconductor repository, I determined that there was a JAK/STAT signature in synovial CD14 macrophages from patients with RA and this differed from psoriatic arthritis samples. JAK inhibition using a JAK1/3 inhibitor tofacitinib reduced TNFα production when macrophages were cell contact activated by cytokine stimulated CD4 T-cells. Other pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and chemokines such as IP-10 were also reduced. RA synovial fluid failed to stimulate monocytes to phosphorylate STAT1, 3 or 6 but CD4 T-cells activated STAT3 with this stimulus. RNA sequencing of synovial fluid stimulated CD4 T-cells showed an upregulation of SOCS3, BCL6 and SBNO2, a gene associated with RA but with unknown function and tofacitinib reversed this.


These studies demonstrate that tofacitinib is effective at reducing inflammatory mediator production in a macrophage cell contact assay and also affects soluble factor mediated stimulation of CD4 T-cells. This suggests that the effectiveness of JAK inhibition is due to inhibition of multiple cytokine pathways such as IL-6, IL-15 and interferon. RNA sequencing is a useful tool to identify non-coding RNA transcripts that are associated with synovial fluid stimulation and JAK inhibition but these require further validation. SBNO2, a gene that is associated with RA, may be biomarker of tofacitinib treatment but requires further investigation and validation in wider disease cohorts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Rheumatoid Arthritis, JAK inhibitor, tofacitinib, Big Data, arthritis, synovium, macrophage, CD4 T cell.
Subjects: Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR180 Immunology
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Infection & Immunity
Funder's Name: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Supervisor's Name: McInnes, Professor Iain B. and Kurowska-Stolarska, Dr. Mariola
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Dr Jagtar S Nijjar
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7543
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2016 11:56
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2019 12:02

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