Focal Synovial Inflammation Versus Enthesitis Theory in Distal Psoriatic Arthritis: A Pioneer Histopathologic Study

ABSTRACT The aim of this analysis was to re-examine the classical concept of distal interphalangeal joint (DIP) psoriatic arthritis (PsA) as an entheseal-driven disease. Two cadaveric fingers with severe psoriatic arthritis were analyzed. Our results demonstrate that inflammation of DIP PsA is multifocal without interconnection between entheses and articular cartilage of the DIP. We found a clear association between synovitis and focal loss of articular cartilage at the head of the intermediate phalanx. By contrast, the articular cartilage adjacent to the zone of severe enthesitis did not show notable damage. Fibrocartilaginous destructions of enthesis were characterized by either a multifocal lymphocytic inflammation, accompanied by osteoclastic resorption, beginning on the interface between the uncalcified and calcified fibrocartilage and then extending into the bone or a subchondral bone inflammation which insidiously destroyed first the bone and then the fibrocartilage. Some sections well showed an inflammation either mild or prominent starting at the level of vascular foramina of flexor enthesis, with secondary invading into the interface between bone and enthesis. The different anatomic sites examined showed a slight predominance of CD8+ T cells over CD4+ T cells: 52% up to 63% for CD8+ T cells vs. to 36% up to 48% for CD4+ T cells. Sparse interspersed CD1a+cells and PS100+cells were also seen with a predominance of PS100+ cells on CD1a+ cells. CD20+ B cells, plasmocytes, neutrophils, and mastocytes were absent or rare. CD123 positive cells were not observed. In DIP PsA, 3 findings predominate: (1) cartilage invasion by the thin pannus offers a more rational explanation for the focal joint destruction than does inflammation of the enthesis which is independent from articular cartilage, (2) the thick ventral plate and to a lesser extend the thin dorsal plate constitute a barrier between the inflamed entheses and the articular cartilage, and (3) an unusual form of minute vascular foramen contributes to the early stage of enthesitis. This small study suggests that DIP PsA is a complex disease. It affects anatomical micro sites which, although close, are in fact relatively independent of each other. Further studies are needed to test this hypothesis.

as reported in: Am J Dermatopathol. 2021 Mar 30 [Epub ahead of print]