The interactions between the different cell types in periprosthetic tissue are still unclear. We used a non-contact coculture model to investigate the effects of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) particles and human macrophage-derived soluble mediators on fibroblast activation. Macrophages were either exposed or not exposed to phagocytosable PMMA particles, but fibroblasts were not. Increasing numbers of macrophages were tested in cocultures in which the fibroblast cell number was held constant and cultures of macrophages alone were used for comparison of cytokine release. We used the release of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta), interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), lysosomal enzyme and metalloproteinase activity to assess the cultivation of macrophages and fibroblasts. In cocultures, IL-6 release was increased 100-fold for both unchallenged and particle-challenged cultures when compared with macrophage cultures alone. Furthermore, particle-challenged cocultures had threefold higher IL-6 levels than unchallenged cocultures. Release of TNF-alpha was similar in cocultures and in macrophage cultures. IL-1beta release in cocultures was independent of the macrophage-fibroblast ratio. Lysosomal enzyme activity and metalloproteinase activity were increased in cocultures. Our data show that macrophages and fibroblasts in coculture significantly increase the release of IL-6 and to a less degree other inflammatory mediators; particle exposure accentuates this effect. This suggests that macrophage accumulation in fibrous tissue may lead to elevated IL-6 levels that are much higher than those caused by particle activation of macrophages alone. This macrophage-fibroblast interaction represents a novel concept for the initiation and maintenance of the inflammatory process in periprosthetic membranes.
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