Ann Rheum Dis doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200424
  • Basic and translational research
  • Extended report

TNF blockade requires 1,25(OH)2D3 to control human Th17-mediated synovial inflammation

  1. Erik Lubberts1,2
  1. 1Department of Rheumatology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Immunology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4Department of Orthopedics, Maasstad Hospital, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  5. 5Department of Rheumatology, ZGT, Almelo, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Erik Lubberts, Departments of Rheumatology and Immunology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands; e.lubberts{at}
  • Received 6 October 2011
  • Accepted 31 October 2011
  • Published Online First 4 January 2012


Objectives T helper 17 (Th17) cells from patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) induce a proinflammatory feedback loop upon RA synovial fibroblast (RASF) interaction, including autocrine interleukin (IL)-17A production. A major challenge in medicine is how to control the pathogenic Th17 cell activity in human inflammatory autoimmune diseases. The objective of this study was to examine whether tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockade and/or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) controls Th17-mediated synovial inflammation.

Methods Peripheral CD4+CD45RO+CCR6+ Th17 cells of patients with early RA, Th17–RASF cocultures and synovial biopsy specimens were cultured with or without 1,25(OH)2D3 and/or TNFα blockade. Intracellular cytokine expression was detected by flow cytometry. Cytokine and matrix metalloprotease (MMP) production was determined by ELISA.

Results The authors show that the 1,25(OH)2D3, but not TNFα blockade, significantly suppressed autocrine IL-17A production in Th17–RASF and synovial biopsy cultures. Combining 1,25(OH)2D3 and TNFα blockade had a significant additive effect compared with single treatment in controlling synovial inflammation, indicated by a further reduction in IL-6, IL-8, MMP-1 and MMP-3 in Th17–RASF cocultures and IL-6 and IL-8 expression in cultures of RA synovial tissue.

Conclusions These data show that TNF blockade does not suppress IL-17A and IL-22, which can be overcome by 1,25(OH)2D3. The combination of neutralising TNF activity and 1,25(OH)2D3 controls human Th17 activity and additively inhibits synovial inflammation. This indicates more valuable therapeutic potential of activation of Vitamin D receptorsignalling over current TNF neutralisation strategies in patients with RA and potentially other Th17-mediated inflammatory diseases.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Medical ethics committee of the Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.