OBJECTIVES: Osteoarthritis (OA) is increasingly recognised as a whole joint disease, with an important role for synovium. However, the repertoire of immune cells and fibroblasts that constitute OA synovium remains understudied. This study aims to characterise the cellular composition of advanced OA synovium and to explore potential correlations between different cell types and patient demographics or clinical scores. METHODS: Synovium, collected from 10 patients with advanced OA during total knee replacement surgery, was collagenase-digested, and cells were stained for flow cytometry analysis. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded synovium was sectioned, stained with immunofluorescence, and imaged using the multiplex Cell DIVE platform. Patient demographics and clinical scores were also collected. RESULTS: The proportion of immune cells in OA synovium varied between patients (8-38% of all cells). Macrophages and T cells were the dominant immune cell populations, together representing 76% of immune cells. Age positively correlated with the proportion of macrophages, and negatively correlated with T cells. CCR6+ T cells were found in 6/10 patients; these patients had a higher mean Kellgren-Lawrence grade across the three knee compartments. Immunofluorescence staining showed that macrophages were present in the lining as well as distributed throughout the sublining, while T and B cells were mainly localised near vessels in the sublining. Fibroblast subsets (CD45-PDPN+) based on the expression of CD34/CD90 or FAP/CD90 were identified in all patient samples, and some populations correlate with the percentage of immune cells or clinical scores. Immunofluorescence staining showed that FAP expression was particularly strong in the lining layer, but also present throughout the sublining layer. CD90 expression was exclusively found around vessels in the sublining, while CD34 was mostly found in the sublining but also occasionally in the lining layer. CONCLUSIONS: There are significant differences in the relative proportions and subsets of immune cells in OA synovium; exploratory correlative analyses suggest that these differences might be correlated with age, clinical scores, or fibroblast subsets. Additional studies are required to understand how different cell types affect OA pathobiology, and if the presence or proportion of cell subsets relates to disease phenotypes.
Arthritis Res Ther
B cells, CCR6, Fibroblasts, Flow cytometry, Immunofluorescence, Macrophages, Osteoarthritis, Synovium, T cells, Humans, Knee Joint, Osteoarthritis, Fibroblasts, Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee, Antigens, CD34