OBJECTIVE: To determine whether synovial macrophages and monocytes isolated from patients with rheumatoid arthritis patients are capable of differentiating into osteoclastic bone resorbing cells; and the cellular and humoral conditions required for this to occur. METHODS: Macrophages isolated from the synovium and monocytes from the peripheral blood of rheumatoid arthritis patients were cultured on bone slices and coverslips, in the presence and absence of UMR 106 rat osteoblast-like cells, 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) and macrophage colony stimulating factor (M-CSF), and assessed for cytochemical and functional evidence of osteoclast differentiation. RESULTS: Isolated calcitonin receptor (CTR), tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP), and vitronectin receptor (VNR) negative, CD11b and CD14 positive monocytes and macrophages differentiated into CTR, TRAP, and VNR positive multinucleated cells capable of extensive lacunar bone resorption when co-cultured for 14 d with UMR 106 cells in the presence 1,25(OH)2D3 and M-CSF. CONCLUSIONS: Mononuclear phagocytes (monocytes and macrophages) from rheumatoid arthritis patients are capable of differentiating into multinucleated cells showing all the cytochemical and functional criteria of mature osteoclasts. Synovial macrophage-osteoclast differentiation may represent an important cellular mechanism in the bone destruction associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
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