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Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is characterized by synovial inflammation, followed by hyperplastic changes of the synovium, and destruction of articular cartilage along with underlying bone. This hyperplastic process is the result of inflammation-induced activation of NF-κB, which may be accompanied by decreased osteogenic differentiation of synovial mesenchymal progenitors and contribute to bone resorption. We aimed to explore osteoblast differentiation of synovial fluid (SF)-derived mesenchymal progenitors and correlate it with intensity of inflammation in patients with JIA.
Peripheral blood from 18 patients with oligoarticular (o)JIA, 22 patients with polyarticular (p)JIA and 18 controls was collected along with SF from 18 patients with oJIA and 9 patients with pJIA. SF-derived cells were cultured to assess osteoblastogenesis, using alkaline phosphatase histochemical staining and colorimetric activity assay. The expression of osteoblast-related genes, Runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), Osteoprotegerin (OPG), Receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL) and arthritis-related cytokine/chemokine genes, Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α, Fas, Fas ligand (FasL), Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-17, IL-18, CC chemokine ligand (CCL)-2, CCL3, CCL4 was evaluated. Osteoblastogenesis was correlated with systemic and local inflammatory indicators. Expression of osteoblast genes was also analyzed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and total SF-derived cells from patients with JIA. Additionally, we assessed the inhibitory effect of SF from patients with JIA on differentiation of human bone marrow (hBM)-derived osteoblasts.
Osteoblastogenesis from SF-derived progenitors was decreased in patients with pJIA compared to those with oJIA. Osteoblastogenesis from primary SF-derived cells negatively correlated with erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ρ = -0.391, P = 0.05), C-reactive protein concentration (ρ = -0.527, P<0.01) and synovial concentration of IL-17 (ρ = -0.552, P = 0.01). SF-derived osteoblasts from pJIA patients expressed more CCL2 and CCL3 genes than in oJIA (P = 0.04 and P = 0.03, respectively; Mann-Whitney test). Expression of Fas was significantly higher in osteoblasts from patients with pJIA than those with oJIA (P = 0.03, Mann-Whitney test). SF-derived cells from patients with pJIA expressed higher levels of RANKL than in oJIA (P = 0.05, Mann-Whitney test). PBMCs from patients with JIA expressed less OPG than healthy control patients (P = 0.05, Kruskal-Wallis test). SF from all tested JIA patients inhibited differentiation of hBM-derived osteoblasts (P = 0.04, Kruskal-Wallis test).
Osteoblast differentiation was decreased in patients with severe forms of JIA and accompanied by altered cytokine/chemokine expression pattern. Development of therapeutic interventions targeting synovial mesenchymal or osteoblast lineage cells in JIA would contribute to alleviating both bone destruction and inflammation in severe forms of the disease.