Cartilage-binding antibodies induce pain through immune complex-mediated activation of neurons

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Rheumatoid arthritis-associated joint pain is frequently observed independent of disease activity, suggesting unidentified pain mechanisms. We demonstrate that antibodies binding to cartilage, specific for collagen type II (CII) or cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), elicit mechanical hypersensitivity in mice, uncoupled from visual, histological and molecular indications of inflammation. Cartilage antibody-induced pain-like behavior does not depend on complement activation or joint inflammation, but instead on tissue antigen recognition and local immune complex (IC) formation. smFISH and IHC suggest that neuronal Fcgr1 and Fcgr2b mRNA are transported to peripheral ends of primary afferents. CII-ICs directly activate cultured WT but not FcRγ chain-deficient DRG neurons. In line with this observation, CII-IC does not induce mechanical hypersensitivity in FcRγ chain-deficient mice. Furthermore, injection of CII antibodies does not generate pain-like behavior in FcRγ chain-deficient mice or mice lacking activating FcγRs in neurons. In summary, this study defines functional coupling between autoantibodies and pain transmission that may facilitate the development of new disease-relevant pain therapeutics.


  • Alex Bersellini Farinotti
  • Gustaf Wigerblad
  • Diana Nascimento
  • Duygu B Bas
  • Carlos Morado Urbina
  • Kutty Selva Nandakumar
  • Katalin Sandor
  • Bingze Xu
  • Sally Abdelmoaty
  • Matthew A Hunt
  • Kristina Ängeby Möller
  • Azar Baharpoor
  • Jon Sinclair
  • Kent Jardemark
  • Johanna T Lanner
  • Ia Khmaladze
  • Lars E Borm
  • Lu Zhang
  • Fredrik Wermeling
  • Mark S Cragg
  • Johan Lengqvist
  • Anne-Julie Chabot-Doré
  • Luda Diatchenko
  • Inna Belfer
  • Kim Kultima
  • Birgitta Heyman
  • Juan Miguel Jimenez-Andrade
  • Simone Codeluppi
  • Rikard Holmdahl
  • Camilla I Svensson
External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Southern Medical University
  • Karolinska University Hospital
  • McGill University
  • Uppsala University
  • University of Southampton
  • National Institutes of Health, United States
  • Autonomous University Of Tamaulipas
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Neurosciences
  • Immunology in the medical area
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1904-1924
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number8
Early online date2019 Jun 13
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

© 2019 Bersellini Farinotti et al.

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