Rheumatic diseases encompass a diverse group of chronic disorders that commonly affect musculoskeletal structures. Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are the two most common, leading to considerable functional limitations and irreversible disability when patients are unsuccessfully treated. Although the specific causes of many rheumatic conditions remain unknown, it is generally accepted that immune mechanisms and/or uncontrolled inflammatory responses are involved in their etiology and symptomatology. In this regard, the bidirectional communication between neuroendocrine and immune system has been demonstrated to provide a homeostatic network that is involved in several pathological conditions. Adipokines represent a wide variety of bioactive, immune and inflammatory mediators mainly released by adipocytes that act as signal molecules in the neuroendocrine-immune interactions. Adipokines can also be synthesized by synoviocytes, osteoclasts, osteoblasts, chondrocytes and inflammatory cells in the joint microenvironment, showing potent modulatory properties on different effector cells in OA and RA pathogenesis. Effects of adiponectin, leptin, resistin and visfatin on local and systemic inflammation are broadly described. However, more recently, other adipokines, such as progranulin, chemerin, lipocalin-2, vaspin, omentin-1 and nesfatin, have been recognized to display immunomodulatory actions in rheumatic diseases. This review highlights the latest relevant findings on the role of the adipokine network in the pathophysiology of OA and RA.
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