The prevailing paradigm is that in human rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the accumulation of monocytes and T cells in the joint, mediated in part by such CC chemokine receptors (CCRs) as CCR2 and CCRS, respectively, plays a central role in disease pathogenesis. To further validate this paradigm, we conducted proof-of-principle studies and tested the hypothesis that gene inactivation of Ccr2 or Ccr5 will ameliorate experimental RA. Contrary to our expectations, we found that in two well-established murine models of experimental RA, CCR2 expression in the hematopoietic cell compartment served as a negative regulator of autoantibody production as well as arthritic disease onset, severity, and resolution. In contrast, the RA phenotype in Ccr5-null mice was similar to that of WT mice. Remarkably, the collagen-induced arthritis phenotype of Ccr2 -/- mice mimicked closely that of severe human RA, including production of rheumatoid factor, enhanced T cell production, and monocyte/macrophage accumulation in the joints. Our findings demonstrate an essential protective role of CCR2 expression in RA, indicate the existence of alternative receptors responsible for monocyte/macrophage accumulation to inflamed joints, and emphasize the need to clarify carefully the complex effects of the chemokine system in RA before they can be considered as therapeutic targets.
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