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Objective. To explore the regulation of factors involved in lymphocyte trafficking in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) undergoing treatment with tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α) inhibitors. Methods. We examined 14 consecutive patients with RA according to ACR criteria prior to and during treatment with TNF-α inhibitors (seven etanercept, seven infliximab) and determined disease activity using the Disease Activity Score (DAS-28). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated before and after 6 and 14 weeks of treatment and analysed immediately for CD3, CD4 and CD8, expression of chemokine receptors CXCR3 and CCR4, CD45RO phenotype and for expression of interferon γ (IFN-γ) and interleukin 4 (IL-4) using four-colour flow cytometry. Results. We found significant increases in CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes expressing CXCR3 after 6 and 14 weeks. The overall proportion of T lymphocytes expressing CCR4 appeared unchanged. More than half of peripheral CD4 T lymphocytes showed a memory phenotype (CD45RO), with a non-significant increase under TNF-α inhibition. Upon activation, up to 30% of CXCR3+/CD4 T cells expressed IFN-γ, while IL-4-expressing cells were rare. There was a robust negative correlation between CXCR3+/CD4 T lymphocytes and DAS-28. Conclusions. TNF-α inhibition with infliximab and etanercept results in sustained accumulation of CXCR3 positive T lymphocytes in the peripheral blood of RA patients. This suggests altered lymphocyte trafficking during TNF-α inhibition. © British Society for Rheumatology 2004; all rights reserved.

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172 - 175