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Objective: To clarify the effect of interleukin (IL) 18 on cartilage degeneration by studying the profile of IL18 receptor (IL18R) on chondrocytes and the direct effect of IL18 on production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), aggrecanases, and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) in articular chondrocytes.
Methods: Monolayer cultured human articular chondrocytes were isolated from non-arthritic subjects and patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Gene expression of IL18, IL18Rα, IL18Rß, MMPs, and aggrecanases was detected by RT-PCR. Protein levels of IL18Rα were analysed by flow cytometry. Protein levels of IL18, MMPs, and TIMPs were measured by ELISA. Aggrecanase-2 mRNA expression was quantitatively analysed by real time RT-PCR. Protein levels of signalling molecules were assayed by western blotting.
Results: IL18 mRNA was constitutively expressed in chondrocytes, and was enhanced by IL1ß stimulation. Flow cytometric analysis showed that IL1ß, tumour necrosis factor α, and IL18 up regulated IL18Rα expression levels. The level of IL18Rß mRNA was much lower than that of IL18Rα, and was slightly up regulated by IL1ß. In chondrocytes responding to IL18, IL18 (1–100 ng/ml) slightly increased the production of MMP-1, MMP-3, and MMP-13, which was blocked by NF-κB inhibitor and p38 mitogen activated protein kinase inhibitor. IL18 up regulated mRNA expression of aggrecanase-2, but not aggrecanase-1. IL18 also slightly stimulated TIMP-1 production?through extracellular signal regulated kinase activation.
Conclusion: IL18 induces production of MMPs from chondrocytes in inflammatory arthritis. Although the direct effect of IL18 on chondrocytes may not be pivotal for the induction of cartilage degeneration, IL18 seems to play some part in the degradation of articular cartilage in arthritis.