Arthritis Flares Mediated by Tissue Resident Memory T Cells in the Joint
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease, but disease flares typically affect only a subset of joints, distributed in a pattern that is distinctive for each patient. Pursuing this intriguing pattern, we show that arthritis recurrence is mediated by long-lived synovial resident memory T cells (TRM). In three murine models, CD8+ cells bearing TRM markers remain in previously inflamed joints during remission. These cells are bona fide TRM, exhibiting failure to migrate from joint to joint, preferential uptake of fatty acids, and long-term residency. Disease flares result from TRM activation by antigen, leading to CCL5-mediated recruitment of circulating effector cells. Correspondingly, TRM depletion ameliorates recurrence in a site-specific manner. Human rheumatoid arthritis joint tissues contain a comparable CD8+-predominant TRM population, most evident in late-stage leukocyte-poor synovium, exhibiting limited T cell receptor diversity and a pro-inflammatory transcriptomic signature. Together, these findings establish synovial TRM cells as a targetable mediator of disease chronicity in autoimmune arthritis.