Plasma Levels of Eicosapentaenoic Acid Are Associated with Anti-TNF Responsiveness in Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inhibit the Etanercept-driven Rise in Th17 Cell Differentiation in Vitro
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Objective To determine whether levels of plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with response to antitumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) agents in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and whether this putative effect may have its basis in altering anti-TNF–driven Th17 cell differentiation.
Methods Plasma was collected at baseline and after 3 months of anti-TNF treatment in 22 patients with established RA, and fatty acid composition of the phosphatidylcholine (PC) component was measured. CD4+CD25– T cells and monocytes were purified from the blood of healthy donors and cocultured in the presence of anti-CD3, with or without etanercept (ETN), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), or the control fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA). Expression of interleukin 17 and interferon-γ was measured by intracellular staining and flow cytometry.
Results Plasma PC EPA levels and the EPA/arachidonic acid ratio correlated inversely with change in the Disease Activity Score at 28 joints (DAS28) at 3 months (–0.51, p = 0.007 and –0.48, p = 0.01, respectively), indicating that higher plasma EPA was associated with a greater reduction in DAS28. Plasma PC EPA was positively associated with European League Against Rheumatism response (p = 0.02). An increase in Th17 cells post-therapy has been associated with nonresponse to anti-TNF. ETN increased Th17 frequencies in vitro. Physiological concentrations of EPA, but not LA, prevented this.
Conclusion EPA status was associated with clinical improvements to anti-TNF therapy in vivo and prevented the effect of ETN on Th17 cells in vitro. EPA supplementation might be a simple way to improve anti-TNF outcomes in patients with RA by suppressing Th17 frequencies.