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1.  Slit3 inhibits Robo3-induced invasion of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis 
The repellent factor family of Slit molecules has been described to have repulsive function in the developing nervous system on growing axons expressing the Robo receptors. However, until today no data are available on whether these repellent factors are involved in the regulation of synovial fibroblast (SF) activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
mRNA expression in primary synovial fibroblasts was quantified by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and protein expression was measured by fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis. Different functional assays were performed with rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF): proliferation, migration and a novel in-vitro cartilage destruction assay.
First, we found increased expression of Robo3 expression in RASF compared to normal SF. Interestingly, analysis of data from a recently published genome-wide association study suggests a contribution of ROBO3 gene polymorphisms to susceptibility of RA. Functional assays performed with RASF revealed induction of migration and cartilage destruction by Robo3 and increased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)1 and MMP3 expression. Treatment of RASF in early passages with Slit3 led to inhibition of migration whereas RASF in later passages, having reduced Robo3 expression in cell culture, were not inhibited by Slit3 treatment. Here, reduction of Robo3 expression from passage 3 to 10 might reflect an important step in losing repulsive activity of Slit3.
Taken together, our data showed that deregulation of the Robo3 receptor in synovial fibroblasts in RA correlates with aggressiveness of the fibroblasts. Slit3 reduces the migratory activity of synovial cells from patients with RA, potentially by repulsion of the cells in analogy to the neuronal system. Further studies will be necessary to prove Slit activity in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2888193  PMID: 20298552
2.  Susceptibility of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis is cell cycle-dependent 
The rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovium is characterised by the presence of an aggressive population of activated synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) that are prominently involved in the destruction of articular cartilage and bone. Accumulating evidence suggests that RASFs are relatively resistant to Fas-ligand (FasL)-induced apoptosis, but the data concerning tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) have been conflicting. Here, we hypothesise that the susceptibility of RASFs to receptor-mediated apoptosis depends on the proliferation status of these cells and therefore analysed the cell cycle dependency of FasL- and TRAIL-induced programmed cell death of RASFs in vitro.
Synovial fibroblasts were isolated from patients with RA by enzymatic digestion and cultured under standard conditions. Cell cycle analysis was performed using flow cytometry and staining with propidium iodide. RASFs were synchronised or arrested in various phases of the cell cycle with 0.5 mM hydroxyurea or 2.5 μg/ml nocodazol and with foetal calf serum-free insulin-transferrin-sodium selenite supplemented medium. Apoptosis was induced by stimulation with 100 ng/ml FasL or 100 ng/ml TRAIL over 18 hours. The apoptotic response was measured using the Apo-ONE® Homogenous Caspase-3/7 Assay (Promega GmbH, Mannheim, Germany) and the Cell Death Detection (ELISAPlus) (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) (Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Mannheim, Germany). Staurosporin-treated cells (1 μg/ml) served as a positive control. Expression of Fas and TRAIL receptors (TRAILR1-4) was determined by fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis.
Freshly isolated RASFs showed only low proliferation in vitro, and the rate decreased further over time, particularly when RASFs became confluent. RASFs expressed Fas, TRAIL receptor-1, and TRAIL receptor-2, and the expression levels were independent of the cell cycle. However, the proliferation rate significantly influenced the susceptibility to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Specifically, proliferating RASFs were less sensitive to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis than RASFs with a decreased proliferation rate. Furthermore, RASFs that were synchronised in S phase or G2/M phase were less sensitive to TRAIL-induced apoptosis than synchronised RASFs in G0/G1 phase.
Our data indicate that the susceptibility of RASFs to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis depends on the cell cycle. These results may explain some conflicting data on the ability of RASFs to undergo FasL- and TRAIL-mediated cell death and suggest that strategies to sensitise RASFs to apoptosis may include the targeting of cell cycle-regulating genes.
PMCID: PMC2688248  PMID: 19196465
3.  Activation of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis: lack of expression of the tumour suppressor PTEN at sites of invasive growth and destruction 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):59-64.
In the present study, we searched for mutant PTEN transcripts in aggressive rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SF) and studied the expression of PTEN in RA. By automated sequencing, no evidence for the presence of mutant PTEN transcripts was found. However, in situ hybridization on RA synovium revealed a distinct expression pattern of PTEN, with negligible staining in the lining layer but abundant expression in the sublining. Normal synovial tissue exhibited homogeneous staining for PTEN. In cultured RA-SF, only 40% expressed PTEN. Co-implantation of RA-SF and normal human cartilage into severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice showed only limited expression of PTEN, with no staining in those cells aggressively invading the cartilage. Although PTEN is not genetically altered in RA, these findings suggest that a lack of PTEN expression may constitute a characteristic feature of activated RA-SF in the lining, and may thereby contribute to the invasive behaviour of RA-SF by maintaining their aggressive phenotype at sites of cartilage destruction.
PTEN is a novel tumour suppressor which exhibits tyrosine phosphatase activity as well as homology to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin. Mutations of PTEN have been described in several human cancers and associated with their invasiveness and metastatic properties. Although not malignant, rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SF) exhibit certain tumour-like features such as attachment to cartilage and invasive growth. In the present study, we analyzed whether mutant transcripts of PTEN were present in RA-SF. In addition, we used in situ hybridization to study the expression of PTEN messenger (m)RNA in tissue samples of RA and normal individuals as well as in cultured RA-SF and in the severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mouse model of RA.
Synovial tissue specimens were obtained from seven patients with RA and from two nonarthritic individuals. Total RNA was isolated from synovial fibroblasts and after first strand complementary (c)DNA synthesis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed to amplify a 1063 base pair PTEN fragment that encompassed the coding sequence of PTEN including the phosphatase domain and all mutation sites described so far. The PCR products were subcloned in Escherichia coli, and up to four clones were picked from each plate for automated sequencing. For in situ hybridization, digoxigenin-labelled PTEN-specific RNA probes were generated by in vitro transcription. For control in situ hybridization, a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2-specific probe was prepared. To investigate the expression of PTEN in the absence of human macrophage or lymphocyte derived factors, we implanted RA-SF from three patients together with normal human cartilage under the renal capsule of SCID mice. After 60 days, mice were sacrificed, the implants removed and embedded into paraffin.
PCR revealed the presence of the expected 1063 base pair PTEN fragment in all (9/9) cell cultures (Fig. 1). No additional bands that could account for mutant PTEN variants were detected. Sequence analysis revealed 100% homology of all RA-derived PTEN fragments to those from normal SF as well as to the published GenBank sequence (accession number U93051). However, in situ hybridization demonstrated considerable differences in the expression of PTEN mRNA within the lining and the sublining layers of RA synovial membranes. As shown in Figure 2a, no staining was observed within the lining layer which has been demonstrated to mediate degradation of cartilage and bone in RA. In contrast, abundant expression of PTEN mRNA was found in the sublining of all RA synovial tissues (Figs 2a and b). Normal synovial specimens showed homogeneous staining for PTEN within the thin synovial membrane (Fig. 2c). In situ hybridization using the sense probe gave no specific staining (Fig. 2d). We also performed in situ hybridization on four of the seven cultured RA-SF and followed one cell line from the first to the sixth passage. Interestingly, only 40% of cultured RA-SF expressed PTEN mRNA (Fig. 3a), and the proportion of PTEN expressing cells did not change throughout the passages. In contrast, control experiments using a specific RNA probe for MMP-2 revealed mRNA expression by nearly all cultured cells (Fig. 3b). As seen before, implantation of RA-SF into the SCID mice showed considerable cartilage degradation. Interestingly, only negligible PTEN expression was found in those RA-SF aggressively invading the cartilage (Fig. 3c). In situ hybridization for MMP-2 showed abundant staining in these cells (Fig. 3d).
Although this study found no evidence for mutations of PTEN in RA synovium, the observation that PTEN expression is lacking in the lining layer of RA synovium as well as in more than half of cultured RA-SF is of interest. It suggests that loss of PTEN function may not exclusively be caused by genetic alterations, yet at the same time links the low expression of PTEN to a phenotype of cells that have been shown to invade cartilage aggressively.
It has been proposed that the tyrosine phosphatase activity of PTEN is responsible for its tumour suppressor activity by counteracting the actions of protein tyrosine kinases. As some studies have demonstrated an upregulation of tyrosine kinase activity in RA synovial cells, it might be speculated that the lack of PTEN expression in aggressive RA-SF contributes to the imbalance of tyrosine kinases and phosphatases in this disease. However, the extensive amino-terminal homology of the predicted protein to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin suggests a complex regulatory function involving cellular adhesion molecules and phosphatase-mediated signalling. The tyrosine phosphatase TEP1 has been shown to be identical to the protein encoded by PTEN, and gene transcription of TEP1 has been demonstrated to be downregulated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. Therefore, it could be hypothesized that TGF-β might be responsible for the downregulation of PTEN. However, the expression of TGF-β is not restricted to the lining but found throughout the synovial tissue in RA. Moreover, in our study the percentage of PTEN expressing RA-SF remained stable for six passages in culture, whereas molecules that are cytokine-regulated in vivo frequently change their expression levels when cultured over several passages. Also, cultured RA-SF that were implanted into SCID mice and deeply invaded the cartilage did not show significant expression of PTEN after 60 days. The drop in the percentage of PTEN expressing cells from the original cell cultures to the SCID mouse implants is of interest as this observation goes along with data from previous studies that have shown the prominent expression of activation-related molecules in the SCID mice implants that in vivo are found predominantly in the lining layer. Therefore, our data point to endogenous mechanisms rather than to the influence of exogenous human cytokines or factors in the downregulation of PTEN. Low expression of PTEN may belong to the features that distinguish between the activated phenotype of RA-SF and the sublining, proliferating but nondestructive cells.
PMCID: PMC17804  PMID: 11219390
rheumatoid arthritis; synovial membrane; fibroblasts; PTEN tumour suppressor; severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mouse model; cartilage destruction; in situ hybridization
4.  Hypermethylation of EBF3 and IRX1 Genes in Synovial Fibroblasts of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Molecules and Cells  2013;35(4):298-304.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disease of unknown origin, which exhibits a complex heterogeneity in its pathophysiological background, resulting in differential responses to a range of therapies and poor long-term prognosis. RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) are key player cells in RA pathogenesis. Identification of DNA methylation biomarkers is a field that provides potential for improving the process of diagnosis and prognosis of various human diseases. We utilized a genome-wide technique, methylated DNA isolation assay (MeDIA), in combination with a high resolution CpG microarray for discovery of novel hypermethylated genes in RASFs. Thirteen genes (APEX1, EBF3, EGR2, EN1, IRX1, IRX6, KIF12, LHX2, MIPOL1, SGTA, SIN3A, TOLLIP, and ZHX2) with three consecutive hypermethylated probes were isolated as candidate genes through two CpG microarrays. Pyrosequencing assay was performed to validate the methylation status of TGF-β signaling components, EBF3 and IRX1 genes in RASFs and osteoarthritis (OA) SFs. Hypermethylation at CpG sites in the EBF3 and IRX1 genes was observed with a high methylation index (MI) in RASFs (52.5% and 41.4%, respectively), while a lower MI was observed in OASFs and healthy SFs (13.2% for EBF3 and 4.3% for IRX1). In addition, RT-PCR analysis showed a remarkable decrease in their mRNA expression in the RA group, compared with the OA or healthy control, and their reduction levels correlated with MI. The current findings suggest that methylation-associated down-regulation of EBF3 and IRX1 genes may play an important role in a pathogenic effect of TGF-β on RASFs. However, further clinical validation with large numbers of patients is needed in order to confirm our findings.
PMCID: PMC3887890  PMID: 23456299
EBF3; hypermethylation; IRX1; rheumatoid arthritis; synovial fibroblast
5.  Investigate Pathogenic Mechanism of TXNDC5 in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53301.
Hypoxia stimulates synovial hypoperfusion in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). TXNDC5 stimulates cellular proliferation in hypoxic conditions. We previously detected increased TXNDC5 expression in synovial tissues and blood from RA patients and demonstrated that the gene encoding TXNDC5 increased RA risk. The present study investigated the pathogenic roles of TXNDC5 in RA. Transgenic mice that over-expressed TXNDC5 (TXNDC5-Tg) were generated using C57BL/6J mice and treated with bovine collagen II to induce arthritis (CIA). Synovial fibroblasts from RA patients (RASFs) were cultured and incubated with TXNDC5-siRNA or CoCl2, a chemical that induces hypoxia. CIA was observed in 80% of the TXNDC5-Tg, but only 20% of the wild-type mice (WT) developed CIA. The clinical arthritis scores reached 5 in the TXNDC5-Tg, but this index only reached 2 in the control mice. CIA TXNDC5-Tg exhibited clear pannus proliferation and bone erosion in joint tissues. A significant increase in CD4 T cells was observed in the thymus and spleen of TXNDC5-Tg during CIA. Serum levels of anti-collagen II IgG, IgG1 and IgG2a antibodies were significantly elevated in the mice. Increased cell proliferation, cell migration and TXNDC5 expression were observed in RASFs following incubation with 1 µM CoCl2. However, this effect was diminished when TXNDC5 expression was inhibited with 100 nM siRNA. TNF-alpha, IL-1α, IL-1β and IL-17 levels were significantly increased in the blood of TXNDC5-Tg mice, but the levels of these cytokines declined in the supernatant of RASFs that were treated with TXNDC5 siRNA. The expression of adiponectin, a cytokine-like mediator, decreased significantly in RASFs following TXNDC5 siRNA treatment. These results suggest that TXNDC5-over-expressing mice were susceptible to CIA. This study also suggests that hypoxia induced TXCNDC5 expression, which contributed to adiponectin expression, cytokine production and the cellular proliferation and migration of fibroblasts in RA.
PMCID: PMC3541148  PMID: 23326410
6.  Endothelial protein C receptor-associated invasiveness of rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts is likely driven by group V secretory phospholipase A2 
Rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) mediate joint inflammation and destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR) is a specific receptor for the natural anticoagulant activated protein C (APC). It mediates the cytoprotective properties of APC and is expressed in rheumatoid synovial tissue. A recent report shows that group V secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2V) prevents APC from binding to EPCR in endothelium and inhibits EPCR/APC function. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression and function of EPCR on RASFs.
Human synovial fibroblasts (SFs) were isolated from RA or osteoarthritis (OA) synovial tissues and treated with control, EPCR, or sPLA2V small interfering RNA (siRNA); recombinant human APC, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), or sPLA2V. RASF viability and migration/invasion were measured by 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) and collagen gel migration/invasion assays, respectively, and cartilage degradation by 1,9-dimethylmethylene blue (DMMB) assay in the presence of human OA articular cartilage explants. The expression or activation of cytokines, EPCR, cadherin-11, mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, and nuclear factor-kappa-B (NF-κB) or both were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, Western blotting, or immunostaining.
EPCR was expressed by both OASFs and RASFs but was markedly increased in RASFs. When EPCR was suppressed by siRNA or blocking antibody cell viability, cell invasion and cartilage degradation were reduced by more than 30%. Inflammatory mediators interleukin-1-beta (IL-1β), cadherin-11, and NF-κB were significantly reduced by EPCR suppression under control or TNF-α-stimulated conditions. The expression or activation (or both) of MAP kinases ERK, p38, and JNK were also markedly decreased in cells transfected with EPCR siRNA. Further analysis revealed that sPLA2V co-localized with EPCR on RASFs. Suppression of sPLA2V reduced cell viability and cartilage degradation and increased APC binding to RASFs. Conversely, recombinant sPLA2V increased cartilage degradation, blocked APC binding to RASFs, and could not rescue the effects induced by EPCR suppression.
Our results demonstrate that EPCR is overexpressed by RASFs and mediates the aggressive behavior of RASFs. This function of EPCR is contrary to its cytoprotective role in other settings and is likely driven by sPLA2V.
PMCID: PMC3979138  PMID: 24495480
7.  p53 in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts at sites of invasion 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2003;62(12):1139-1144.
Objective: To analyse the functional response of p53 in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) in vitro and in vivo and to investigate whether activation of p53 modulates the destructive process of RASF.
Methods: RASF and controls grown on chamber slides were either directly examined with DO7 anti-p53 antibodies by immunofluorescence or irradiated with 10 Gy x rays and analysed time dependently for the expression of p53. The percentage of positive cells was evaluated by a quantitative scoring system. RASF and normal (N) SF cultured in vitro were co-implanted with human cartilage in SCID mice for 60 days. Consecutively, the invasion score was evaluated, and the number of p53 positive cells was determined at the sites of invasion by immunohistochemistry. In addition, synovial tissues from RA, osteoarthritis, and normal synovia were stained with DO7 antibodies.
Results: In vitro the rate of expression of p53 in RASF was low (<5%), but transiently inducible by ionising irradiation (50%). In vitro low p53 expressing RASF disclosed, when invading articular cartilage, a nuclear p53 signal in 20% of the cells, indicating the induction of p53 in a distinct population of RASF during the invasive process.
Conclusions: These data suggest an inductive p53 response at sites of cartilage invasion during the destructive process driven by activated RASF.
PMCID: PMC1754413  PMID: 14644850
8.  Transport Mechanisms and Their Pathology-Induced Regulation Govern Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Delivery in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52247.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are effective in treating malignant disorders and were lately suggested to have an impact on non-malignant diseases. However, in some inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) the in vivo effect seemed to be moderate. As most TKIs are taken up actively into cells by cell membrane transporters, this study aimed to evaluate the role of such transporters for the accumulation of the TKI Imatinib mesylates in RA synovial fibroblasts as well as their regulation under inflammatory conditions.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The transport and accumulation of Imatinib was investigated in transporter-transfected HEK293 cells and human RA synovial fibroblasts (hRASF). Transporter expression was quantified by qRT-PCR. In transfection experiments, hMATE1 showed the highest apparent affinity for Imatinib among all known Imatinib transporters. Experiments quantifying the Imatinib uptake in the presence of specific transporter inhibitors and after siRNA knockdown of hMATE1 indeed identified hMATE1 to mediate Imatinib transport in hRASF. The anti-proliferative effect of Imatinib on PDGF stimulated hRASF was quantified by cell counting and directly correlated with the uptake activity of hMATE1. Expression of hMATE1 was investigated by Western blot and immuno-fluorescence. Imatinib transport under disease-relevant conditions, such as an altered pH and following stimulation with different cytokines, was also investigated by HPLC. The uptake was significantly reduced by an acidic extracellular pH as well as by the cytokines TNFα, IL-1β and IL-6, which all decreased the expression of hMATE1-mRNA and protein.
The regulation of Imatinib uptake via hMATE1 in hRASF and resulting effects on their proliferation may explain moderate in vivo effects on RA. Moreover, our results suggest that investigating transporter mediated drug processing under normal and pathological conditions is important for developing intracellular acting drugs used in inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3527388  PMID: 23284953
9.  Autophagy induction and CHOP under-expression promotes survival of fibroblasts from rheumatoid arthritis patients under endoplasmic reticulum stress 
Synovial fibroblasts from rheumatoid arthritis show resistance to apoptotic stimuli, indicating they may be difficult to treat. To clearly understand these mechanisms of resistance, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF and OASF) were exposed to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress such as thapsigargin, Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor.
Fibroblasts were assessed microscopically for cell viability by trypan blue exclusion and for autophagic cells by LC-3II formation. Caspase-3 activity was measured as aminomethyl-coumarin (AMC) liberated from AC-DEVD-AMC. Immunoblotting was performed to compare protein expression in OASF and RASF.
ER stress caused cell death in OASF but not in RASF. Thapsigargin, a Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor, did not change the expression of GRP78, an ER chaperone in OASF and RASF, but induced another ER stress protein, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) homologous protein (CHOP) differently, showing high levels in OASF and low levels in RASF. Thapsigargin increased the autophagy response in RASF, with autophagosome formation, beclin expression, and LC3-II conversion. Transfection with beclin siRNA inhibited autophagy and increased the susceptibility to ER stress-induced cell death. On the other hand, CHOP siRNA increased autophagy and improved cell survival, especially in RASF, indicating that CHOP is involved in regulation of autophagy and cell death, but that low expression of CHOP protects RASF from apoptosis.
Autophagy induction and CHOP under-expression increases cell resistance against ER stress-induced cell death in fibroblasts from rheumatoid arthritis patients.
PMCID: PMC2875648  PMID: 20122151
10.  Trichostatin A sensitises rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts for TRAIL‐induced apoptosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2005;65(7):910-912.
Histone acetylation/deacetylation has a critical role in the regulation of transcription by altering the chromatin structure.
To analyse the effect of trichostatin A (TSA), a streptomyces metabolite which specifically inhibits mammalian histone deacetylases, on TRAIL‐induced apoptosis of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF).
Apoptotic cells were detected after co‐treatment of RASF with TRAIL (200 ng/ml) and TSA (0.5, 1, and 2 μmol/l) by flow cytometry using propidium iodide/annexin‐V‐FITC staining. Cell proliferation was assessed using the MTS proliferation test. Induction of the cell cycle inhibitor p21Waf/Cip1 by TSA was analysed by western blot. Expression of the TRAIL receptor‐2 (DR5) on the cell surface of RASF was analysed by flow cytometry. Levels of soluble TRAIL were measured in synovial fluid of patients with RA and osteoarthritis (OA) by ELISA.
Co‐treatment of the cells with TSA and TRAIL induced cell death in a synergistic and dose dependent manner, whereas TRAIL and TSA alone had no effect or only a modest effect. RASF express DR5 (TRAIL receptor 2), but treatment of the cells with TSA for 24 hours did not change the expression level of DR5, as it is shown for cancer cells. TSA induced cell cycle arrest in RASF through up regulation of p21Waf1/Cip1. Levels of soluble TRAIL were significantly higher in RA than in OA synovial fluids.
Because TSA sensitises RASF for TRAIL‐induced apoptosis, it is concluded that TSA discloses sensitive sites in the cascade of TRAIL signalling and may represent a new principle for the treatment of RA.
PMCID: PMC1798225  PMID: 16284094
trichostatin A; TRAIL; apoptosis; synovial fibroblasts; rheumatoid arthritis
11.  RNA-seq analysis of synovial fibroblasts brings new insights into rheumatoid arthritis 
Cell & Bioscience  2012;2:43.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune-disease of unknown origin that primarily affects the joints and ultimately leads to their destruction. Growing evidence suggests that synvovial fibroblasts play important roles in the initiation and the perpetuation of RA but underlying molecular mechanisms are not understood fully. In the present study, Illumina RNA sequencing was used to profile two human normal control and two rheumatoid arthritis synvovial fibroblasts (RASFs) transcriptomes to gain insights into the roles of synvovial fibroblasts in RA.
We found that besides known inflammatory and immune responses, other novel dysregulated networks and pathways such as Cell Morphology, Cell-To-Cell Signaling and Interaction, Cellular Movement, Cellular Growth and Proliferation, and Cellular Development, may all contribute to the pathogenesis of RA. Our study identified several new genes and isoforms not previously associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 122 genes were up-regulated and 155 genes were down-regulated by at least two-fold in RASFs compared to controls. Of note, 343 known isoforms and 561 novel isoforms were up-regulated and 262 known isoforms and 520 novel isoforms were down-regulated by at least two-fold. The magnitude of difference and the number of differentially expressed known and novel gene isoforms were not detected previously by DNA microarray.
Since the activation and proliferation of RASFs has been implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis, further in-depth follow-up analysis of the transcriptional regulation reported in this study may shed light on molecular pathogenic mechanisms underlying synovial fibroblasts in arthritis and provide new leads of potential therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3560277  PMID: 23259760
RNA-seq; Next generation sequencing; Rheumatoid arthritis; Synovial fibroblasts; Transcriptional regulation
12.  Kinesin-like protein CENP-E is upregulated in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts 
Arthritis Research  1999;1(1):71-80.
Our aim was to identify specifically expressed genes using RNA arbitrarily primed (RAP)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for differential display in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In RA, amplification of a distinct PCR product suitable for sequencing could be observed. Sequence analysis identified the PCR product as highly homologous to a 434 base pair segment of the human centromere kinesin-like protein CENP-E. Differential expression of CENP-E was confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription PCR, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. CENP-E expression was independent from prednisolone and could not be completely inhibited by serum starvation. RAP-PCR is a suitable method to identify differentially expressed genes in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts. Also, because motifs of CENP-E show homologies to jun and fos oncogene products and are involved in virus assembly, CENP-E may be involved in the pathophysiology of RA.
Articular destruction by invading synovial fibroblasts is a typical feature in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Recent data support the hypothesis that key players in this scenario are transformed-appearing synovial fibroblasts at the site of invasion into articular cartilage and bone. They maintain their aggressive phenotype toward cartilage, even when first cultured and thereafter coimplanted together with normal human cartilage into severe combined immunodeficient mice for an extended period of time. However, little is known about the upregulation of genes that leads to this aggressive fibroblast phenotype. To inhibit this progressive growth without interfering with pathways of physiological matrix remodelling, identification of pathways that operate specifically in RA synovial fibroblasts is required. In order to achieve this goal, identification of genes showing upregulation restricted to RA synovial fibroblasts is essential.
To identify specifically expressed genes using RNA arbitrarily primed (RAP)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for differential display in patients with RA.
RNA was extracted from cultured synovial fibroblasts from 10 patients with RA, four patients with osteoarthritis (OA), and one patient with psoriatic arthritis. RAP-PCR was performed using different arbitrary primers for first-strand and second-strand synthesis. First-strand and second-strand synthesis were performed using arbitrary primers: US6 (5' -GTGGTGACAG-3') for first strand, and Nuclear 1+ (5' -ACGAAGAAGAG-3'), OPN28 (5' -GCACCAGGGG-3'), Kinase A2+ (5' -GGTGCCTTTGG-3')and OPN24 (5' -AGGGGCACCA-3') for second-strand synthesis. PCR reactions were loaded onto 8 mol/l urea/6% polyacrylamide-sequencing gels and electrophoresed.Gel slices carrying the target fragment were then excised with a razor blade, eluated and reamplified. After verifying their correct size and purity on 4% agarose gels, the reamplified products derived from the single-strand confirmation polymorphism gel were cloned, and five clones per transcript were sequenced. Thereafter, a GenBank® analysis was performed. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR of the segments was performed using the PCR MIMIC® technique.In-situ expression of centromere kinesin-like protein-E (CENP-E) messenger (m)RNA in RA synovium was assessed using digoxigenin-labelled riboprobes, and CENP-E protein expression in fibroblasts and synovium was performed by immunogold-silver immunohistochemistry and cytochemistry. Functional analysis of CENP-E was done using different approaches (eg glucocorticoid stimulation, serum starvation and growth rate analysis of synovial fibroblasts that expressed CENP-E).
In RA, amplification of a distinct PCR product suitable for sequencing could be observed. The indicated complementary DNA fragment of 434 base pairs from RA mRNA corresponded to nucleotides 6615-7048 in the human centromere kinesin-like protein CENP-E mRNA (GenBank® accession No. emb/Z15005).The isolated sequence shared greater than 99% nucleic acid (P = 2.9e-169) identity with the human centromere kinesin-like protein CENP-E. Two base changes at positions 6624 (A to C) and 6739 (A to G) did not result in alteration in the amino acid sequence, and therefore 100% amino acid identity could be confirmed. The amplification of 10 clones of the cloned RAP product revealed the presence of CENP-E mRNA in every fibroblast culture examined, showing from 50% (271.000 ± 54.000 phosphor imager arbitrary units) up to fivefold (961.000 ± 145.000 phosphor imager arbitrary units) upregulation when compared with OA fibroblasts. Neither therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs such as methotrexate, gold, resochine or cyclosporine A, nor therapy with oral steroids influenced CENP-E expression in the RA fibroblasts. Of the eight RA fibroblast populations from RA patients who were receiving disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, five showed CENP-E upregulation; and of the eight fibroblast populations from RA patients receiving steroids, four showed CENP-E upregulation.
Numerous synovial cells of the patients with RA showed a positive in situ signal for the isolated CENP-E gene segment, confirming CENP-E mRNA production in rheumatoid synovium, whereas in OA synovial tissue CENP-E mRNA could not be detected. In addition, CENP-E expression was independent from medication. This was further confirmed by analysis of the effect of prednisolone on CENP-E expression, which revealed no alteration in CENP-E mRNA after exposure to different (physiological) concentrations of prednisolone. Serum starvation also could not suppress CENP-E mRNA completely.
Since its introduction in 1992, numerous variants of the differential display method and continuous improvements including RAP-PCR have proved to have both efficiency and reliability in examination of differentially regulated genes. The results of the present study reveal that RAP-PCR is a suitable method to identify differentially expressed genes in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts.
The mRNA, which has been found to be upregulated in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts, codes for a kinesin-like motor protein named CENP-E, which was first characterized in 1991. It is a member of a family of centromere-associated proteins, of which six (CENP-A to CENP-F) are currently known. CENP-E itself is a kinetochore motor, which accumulates transiently at kinetochores in the G2 phase of the cell cycle before mitosis takes place, appears to modulate chromosome movement and spindle elongation,and is degraded at the end of mitosis. The presence or upregulation of CENP-E has never been associated with RA.
The three-dimensional structure of CENP-E includes a coiled-coil domain. This has important functions and shows links to known pathways in RA pathophysiology. Coiled-coil domains can also be found in jun and fos oncogene products, which are frequently upregulated in RA synovial fibroblasts. They are also involved in DNA binding and transactivation processes resembling the situation in AP-1 (Jun/Fos)-dependent DNA-binding in rheumatoid synovium. Most interestingly, these coiled-coil motifs are crucial for the assembly of viral proteins, and the upregulation of CENP-E might reflect the influence of infectious agents in RA synovium. We also performed experiments showing that serum starvation decreased, but did not completely inhibit CENP-E mRNA expression. This shows that CENP-E is related to, but does not completely depend on proliferation of these cells. In addition, we determined the growth rate of CENP-E high and low expressors, showing that it was independent from the amount of CENP-E expression. supporting the statement that upregulation of CENP-E reflects an activated RA fibroblast phenotype. In summary, the results of the present study support the hypothesis that CENP-E, presumably independently from medication, may not only be upregulated, but may also be involved in RA pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC17776  PMID: 11056662
arthritis; centromere; differential display; immunohistochemistry; in situ hybridization; RNA fingerprinting
13.  Altered Expression of MicroRNA-203 in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts and Its Role in Fibroblast Activation 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(2):373-381.
MicroRNA (miRNA) are recognized as important regulators of a variety of fundamental biologic processes. Previously, we described increased expression of miR-155 and miR-146a in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and showed a repressive effect of miR-155 on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression in RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFs). The present study was undertaken to examine alterations in expression of miR-203 in RASFs and analyze its role in fibroblast activation.
Differentially expressed miRNA in RASFs versus osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASFs) were identified by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)–based screening of 260 individual miRNA. Transfection of miR-203 precursor was used to analyze the function of miR-203 in RASFs. Levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and MMPs were measured by real-time PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RASFs were stimulated with IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and 5-azacytidine (5-azaC). Activity of IκB kinase 2 was inhibited with SC-514.
Expression of miR-203 was higher in RASFs than in OASFs or fibroblasts from healthy donors. Levels of miR-203 did not change upon stimulation with IL-1β, TNFα, or LPS; however, DNA demethylation with 5-azaC increased the expression of miR-203. Enforced expression of miR-203 led to significantly increased levels of MMP-1 and IL-6. Induction of IL-6 by miR-203 overexpression was inhibited by blocking of the NF-κB pathway. Basal expression levels of IL-6 correlated with basal expression levels of miR-203.
The current results demonstrate methylation-dependent regulation of miR-203 expression in RASFs. Importantly, they also show that elevated levels of miR-203 lead to increased secretion of MMP-1 and IL-6 via the NF-κB pathway and thereby contribute to the activated phenotype of synovial fibroblasts in RA.
PMCID: PMC3116142  PMID: 21279994
14.  Expression of MicroRNA-146 in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Tissue 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(5):1284-1292.
Several microRNA, which are ~22-nucleotide noncoding RNAs, exhibit tissue-specific or developmental stage–specific expression patterns and are associated with human diseases. The objective of this study was to identify the expression pattern of microRNA-146 (miR-146) in synovial tissue from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The expression of miR-146 in synovial tissue from 5 patients with RA, 5 patients with osteoarthritis (OA), and 1 normal subject was analyzed by quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry of tissue sections. Induction of miR-146 following stimulation with tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) of cultures of human rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) was examined by quantitative PCR and RT-PCR.
Mature miR-146a and primary miR-146a/b were highly expressed in RA synovial tissue, which also expressed TNFα, but the 2 microRNA were less highly expressed in OA and normal synovial tissue. In situ hybridization showed primary miR-146a expression in cells of the superficial and sublining layers in synovial tissue from RA patients. Cells positive for miR-146a were primarily CD68+ macrophages, but included several CD3+ T cell subsets and CD79a+ B cells. Expression of miR-146a/b was markedly up-regulated in RASFs after stimulation with TNFα and IL-1β.
This study shows that miR-146 is expressed in RA synovial tissue and that its expression is induced by stimulation with TNFα and IL-1β. Further studies are required to elucidate the function of miR-146 in these tissues.
PMCID: PMC2749927  PMID: 18438844
15.  Disruption of rhythms of molecular clocks in primary synovial fibroblasts of patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, role of IL-1β/TNF 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(3):R122.
Circadian rhythms play an important role in the body and in single cells. Rhythms of molecular clocks have not been investigated in synovial fibroblasts (SF) of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study was initiated to fill this gap and to study effects of interleukin (IL)-1β/tumor necrosis factor (TNF) on rhythmicity in synovial fibroblasts of RA and OA patients.
The presence of BMAL-1, CLOCK, Period 1 and Period 2 proteins in synovial tissue was investigated by immunofluorescence. The presence of mRNA of molecular clocks was studied during 72 h by qPCR. Characteristics of rhythms were studied with time series analysis.
BMAL-1, CLOCK, Period 1 and Period 2 proteins were abundantly present in synovial tissue of OA, RA and controls. Receiving synovial tissue at different operation time points during the day (8:00 am to 4:00 pm) did not reveal a rhythm of BMAL-1 or Period 1 protein. In OASF and RASF, no typical rhythm curve of molecular clock mRNA was observed. Time series analysis identified a first peak between 2 and 18 hours after synchronization but a period was not detectable due to loss of rhythm. TNF inhibited mRNA of CLOCK, Period 1 and Period 2 in OASF, while IL-1β and TNF increased these factors in RASF. This was supported by dose-dependently increased levels in MH7A RA fibroblasts. In RASF, IL-1β and TNF shifted the first peak of BMAL-1 mRNA to later time points (8 h to 14 h).
Rhythmicity is not present in primary OASF and RASF, which is unexpected because fibroblasts usually demonstrate perfect rhythms during several days. This might lead to uncoupling of important cellular pathways.
PMCID: PMC3446503  PMID: 22621205
16.  Key regulatory molecules of cartilage destruction in rheumatoid arthritis: an in vitro study 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, inflammatory and systemic autoimmune disease that leads to progressive cartilage destruction. Advances in the treatment of RA-related destruction of cartilage require profound insights into the molecular mechanisms involved in cartilage degradation. Until now, comprehensive data about the molecular RA-related dysfunction of chondrocytes have been limited. Hence, the objective of this study was to establish a standardized in vitro model to profile the key regulatory molecules of RA-related destruction of cartilage that are expressed by human chondrocytes.
Human chondrocytes were cultured three-dimensionally for 14 days in alginate beads and subsequently stimulated for 48 hours with supernatants from SV40 T-antigen immortalized human synovial fibroblasts (SF) derived from a normal donor (NDSF) and from a patient with RA (RASF), respectively. To identify RA-related factors released from SF, supernatants of RASF and NDSF were analyzed with antibody-based protein membrane arrays. Stimulated cartilage-like cultures were used for subsequent gene expression profiling with oligonucleotide microarrays. Affymetrix GeneChip Operating Software and Robust Multi-array Analysis (RMA) were used to identify differentially expressed genes. Expression of selected genes was verified by real-time RT-PCR.
Antibody-based protein membrane arrays of synovial fibroblast supernatants identified RA-related soluble mediators (IL-6, CCL2, CXCL1–3, CXCL8) released from RASF. Genome-wide microarray analysis of RASF-stimulated chondrocytes disclosed a distinct expression profile related to cartilage destruction involving marker genes of inflammation (adenosine A2A receptor, cyclooxygenase-2), the NF-κB signaling pathway (toll-like receptor 2, spermine synthase, receptor-interacting serine-threonine kinase 2), cytokines/chemokines and receptors (CXCL1–3, CXCL8, CCL20, CXCR4, IL-1β, IL-6), cartilage degradation (matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-10, MMP-12) and suppressed matrix synthesis (cartilage oligomeric matrix protein, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 2).
Differential transcriptome profiling of stimulated human chondrocytes revealed a disturbed catabolic–anabolic homeostasis of chondrocyte function and disclosed relevant pharmacological target genes of cartilage destruction. This study provides comprehensive insight into molecular regulatory processes induced in human chondrocytes during RA-related destruction of cartilage. The established model may serve as a human in vitro disease model of RA-related destruction of cartilage and may help to elucidate the molecular effects of anti-rheumatic drugs on human chondrocyte gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2374452  PMID: 18205922
17.  Ethyl acetate fraction from Angelica sinensis inhibits IL-1β-induced rheumatoid synovial fibroblast proliferation and COX-2, PGE2, and MMPs production 
Biological Research  2014;47(1):41.
The root of Angelica sinensis (AS), also known as “Dang-gui,” was a popular herbal medicine widely used in the treatment of gynecological diseases in China, Korea, and Japan for a long time. This study aimed to determine the effects of ethyl acetate fraction from Angelica sinensis (EAAS) on the interleukin-1β (IL-1β)-induced proliferation of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs), and production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), cyclooxygenase (COX) 2, and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), involved in articular bone and cartilage destruction, by RASFs.
RASF proliferation was evaluated with cholecystokinin octapeptide (CCK-8) reagent in the presence of IL-1β with/without EAAS. Expression of MMPs, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP-1), COXs, PGE2, and intracellular mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling molecules, including p-ERK, p-p38, p-JNK, and NF-κB, were examined using immunoblotting or semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. EAAS inhibited IL-1β-induced RASF proliferation; MMP-1, MMP-3, and COX-2 mRNA and protein expressions; and PGE2 production. EAAS also inhibits the phosphorylation of ERK-1/2, p38, and JNK, and activation of NF-κB by IL-1β.
EAAS might be a new therapeutic modality for rheumatoid arthritis management.
PMCID: PMC4177157  PMID: 25299270
Angelica sinensis; COX; IL-1β; MMPs; Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
18.  Prolonged, granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor-dependent, neutrophil survival following rheumatoid synovial fibroblast activation by IL-17 and TNFalpha 
A surprising feature of the inflammatory infiltrate in rheumatoid arthritis is the accumulation of neutrophils within synovial fluid and at the pannus cartilage boundary. Recent findings suggest that a distinct subset of IL-17-secreting T-helper cells (TH17 cells) plays a key role in connecting the adaptive and innate arms of the immune response and in regulating neutrophil homeostasis. We therefore tested the hypothesis that synovial fibroblasts bridge the biological responses that connect TH17 cells to neutrophils by producing neutrophil survival factors following their activation with IL-17.
IL-17-expressing cells in the rheumatoid synovium, and IL-17-expressing cells in the peripheral blood, and synovial fluid were examined by confocal microscopy and flow cytometry, respectively. Peripheral blood neutrophils were cocultured either with rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) or with conditioned medium from RASF that had been pre-exposed to recombinant human IL-17, TNFα or a combination of the two cytokines. Neutrophils were harvested and stained with the vital mitochondrial dye 3,3'-dihexyloxacarbocyanine iodide before being enumerated by flow cytometry.
TH17-expressing CD4+ cells were found to accumulate within rheumatoid synovial tissue and in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fluid. RASF treated with IL-17 and TNFα (RASFIL-17/TNF) effectively doubled the functional lifespan of neutrophils in coculture. This was entirely due to soluble factors secreted from the fibroblasts. Specific depletion of granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor from RASFIL-17/TNF-conditioned medium demonstrated that this cytokine accounted for approximately one-half of the neutrophil survival activity. Inhibition of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and NF-κB pathways showed a requirement for both signalling pathways in RASFIL-17/TNF-mediated neutrophil rescue.
The increased number of neutrophils with an extended lifespan found in the rheumatoid synovial microenvironment is partly accounted for by IL-17 and TNFα activation of synovial fibroblasts. TH17-expressing T cells within the rheumatoid synovium are likely to contribute significantly to this effect.
PMCID: PMC2453767  PMID: 18433499
19.  Epigenetic contributions in the development of rheumatoid arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints with severe pain and swelling, joint damage and disability, which leads to joint destruction and loss of function. Despite extensive research efforts, the underlying cause for RA is still unknown and current therapies are more or less effective in controlling symptoms but still fail to cure the disease. In recent years, epigenetic modifications were found to strongly contribute to the development of RA by affecting diverse aspects of the disease and modifying gene expression levels and behavior of several cell types, first and foremost joint resident synovial fibroblasts (SF). RASF are the most common cell type at the site of invasion. Owing to their aggressive, intrinsically activated phenotype, RASF are active contributors in joint damage. RASF are characterized by their ability to secrete cytokines, chemokines and joint-damaging enzymes. Furthermore, these cells are resistant to apoptosis, leading to hyperplasia of the synovium. In addition, RASF have invasive and migratory properties that could lead to spreading of the disease to unaffected joints. Epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation and post-translational histone modifications, such as histone (de)acetylation, histone methylation and histone sumoylation were identified as regulatory mechanisms in controlling aggressive cell activation in vitro and in disease outcome in animal models in vivo. In the last 5 years, the field of epigenetics in RA has impressively increased. In this review we consider the role of diverse epigenetic modifications in the development of RA, with a special focus on epigenetic modifications in RASF.
PMCID: PMC3674613  PMID: 23164162
20.  Increased activity and expression of histone deacetylase 1 in relation to tumor necrosis factor-alpha in synovial tissue of rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R133.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the profile of histone deacetylase (HDAC) expression in the synovial tissue of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) compared with that of normal control and osteoarthritis (OA), and to examine whether there is a link between HDAC activity and synovial inflammation.
HDAC activity and histone acetyltransferase (HAT) activity were determined in nuclear extracts of total synovial tissue surgically obtained from normal, OA and RA joints. The level of cytoplasmic tumor necrosis factor a (TNFα) fraction was measured by ELISA. Total RNA of synovial tissue was used for RT-PCR of HDAC1-8. In synovial fibroblasts from RA (RASFs), the effects of TNFα on nuclear HDAC activity and class I HDACs (1, 2, 3, 8) mRNA expressions were examined by quantitative real-time PCR. The protein expression and distribution of class I HDACs were examined by Western blotting.
Nuclear HDAC activity was significantly higher in RA than in OA and normal controls and correlated with the amount of cytoplasmic TNFα. The mRNA expression of HDAC1 in RA synovial tissue was higher than in OA and normal controls, and showed positive correlation with TNFα mRNA expression. The protein level of nuclear HDAC1 was higher in RA synovial tissue compared with OA synovial tissue. Stimulation with TNFα significantly increased the nuclear HDAC activity and HDAC1 mRNA expression at 24 hours and HDAC1 protein expression at 48 hours in RASFs.
Our results showed nuclear HDAC activity and expression of HDAC1 were significantly higher in RA than in OA synovial tissues, and they were upregulated by TNFα stimulation in RASFs. These data might provide important clues for the development of specific small molecule HDAC inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC2945023  PMID: 20609223
21.  HMGB1–LPS complex promotes transformation of osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts to a rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblast-like phenotype 
Qin, Y | Chen, Y | Wang, W | Wang, Z | Tang, G | Zhang, P | He, Z | Liu, Y | Dai, S-M | Shen, Q
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(2):e1077-.
It is generally believed that some inflammatory antigens can recognize Toll-like receptors on synovial fibroblasts (SFs) and then activate downstream signals, leading to the formation of RASFs and inducing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The objective of the current work was to study on the hypothesis that outer PAMP (LPS) binds to the inner DAMP (HMGB1) and becomes a complex that recognizes TLRs/RAGE on SFs, thus initiating a signaling cascade that leads to the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, production of tissue-destructive enzymes, and formation of RASFs, finally resulting in RA. Osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASFs) were co-cultured with HMGB1–LPS complex in vitro for five generations to induce the transformation of human SFs to RA-like SFs (tOASFs). Then, changes of tOASFs in cell cycle and apoptosis–autophagy balance were investigated in vitro, and the pathogenicity of tOASFs was evaluated in a SCID mouse model in vivo. In vitro cell cycle analysis showed more tOASFs passing through the G1/S checkpoint and moving to S or G2 phase. Flow cytometry and confocal microscopy showed that apoptosis was reduced and autophagy was enhanced significantly in tOASFs as compared with those in OASFs. The expression of certain receptors and adhesion molecules in tOASFs was upregulated. In vivo experiments showed that tOASFs attached to, invaded, and degraded the co-implanted cartilage. In addition, histochemistry showed excessive proliferation of tOASFs and the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Based on the above findings, we conclude that HMGB1–LPS complex could promote the formation of RASFs.
PMCID: PMC3944262  PMID: 24556692
rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblast; HMGB1; autophagy
22.  Synovial fibroblasts spread rheumatoid arthritis to unaffected joints 
Nature medicine  2009;15(12):1414-1420.
Active rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by originating from few but affecting subsequently the majority of joints. Thus far, the pathways of the progression of the disease are largely unknown. As rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) are key players in joint destruction and migrate in vitro, the current study evaluated the potential of RASFs to spread the disease in vivo. To simulate the primary joint of origin, healthy human cartilage was co-implanted subcutaneously into SCID mice together with RASFs. At the contralateral flank, healthy cartilage was implanted without cells. RASFs showed an active movement to the naïve cartilage via the vasculature independent of the site of application of RASFs into the SCID mouse, leading to a strong destruction of the target cartilage. These findings support the hypothesis that the characteristic clinical phenomenon of destructive arthritis spreading between joints is mediated, at least in part, by the transmigration of activated RASFs.
PMCID: PMC3678354  PMID: 19898488
23.  ATP Induced Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression and Release from Osteoarthritis Synovial Fibroblasts Is Mediated by Purinergic Receptor P2X4 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36693.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a neuromodulator involved in nociceptive hypersensitivity in the central nervous system, is also expressed in synoviocytes of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We investigated the role of P2 purinoreceptors in the induction of BDNF expression in synovial fibroblasts (SF) of OA and RA patients. Cultured SF from patients with symptomatic knee OA and RA were stimulated with purinoreceptor agonists ATP, ADP, or UTP. The expression of BDNF mRNA was measured by quantitative TaqMan PCR. BDNF release into cell culture supernatants was monitored by ELISA. P2X4 expression in synovial tissue was detected by immunohistochemistry. Endogenous P2X4 expression was decreased by siRNA transfection before ATP stimulation. Kinase pathways were blocked before ATP stimulation. BDNF mRNA expression levels in OASF were increased 2 h and 5 h after ATP stimulation. Mean BDNF levels in cell culture supernatants of unstimulated OASF and RASF were 19 (±9) and 67 (±49) pg/ml, respectively. BDNF levels in SF supernatants were only elevated 5 h after ATP stimulation. BDNF mRNA expression in OASF was induced both by P2X receptor agonists ATP and ADP, but not by UTP, an agonist of P2Y purinergic receptors. The ATP-induced BDNF mRNA expression in OASF was decreased by siRNA-mediated reduction of endogenous P2X4 levels compared to scrambled controls. Inhibition of p38, but not p44/42 signalling reduced the ATP-mediated BDNF mRNA induction. Here we show a functional role of the purinergic receptor P2X4 and p38 kinase in the ATP-induced expression and release of the neurotrophin BDNF in SF.
PMCID: PMC3360754  PMID: 22715356
24.  Cytokine mRNA and protein expression in primary-culture and repeated-passage synovial fibroblasts from patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research  2001;4(2):117-125.
Constitutive mRNA expression and secretion of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines was comparatively analyzed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial fibroblasts (SFB), isolated from primary culture or derived by repeated passage; normal-skin fibroblasts were used as controls. First-passage RA-SFB (n = 3) secreted large amounts of IL-6 (15,800 ± 2,110 pg/ml; mean ± SEM), but only limited amounts of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α (22.1 ± 1.1 pg/ml) or IL-10 (35.7 ± 34.2 pg/ml; only one of three samples was positive). IL-1β, IL-15, and IL-18 were not detectable at the protein level and showed very low mRNA levels by semiquantitative RT-PCR. In repeated-passage RA-SFB (tenth passage), protein secretion was significantly lower for IL-6 (one-twentieth of the initial level) and TNF-α (two-thirds), and markedly reduced for IL-10 (one-quarter, with only one of three samples positive). While the decrease of IL-10 protein from first to tenth passage was paralleled by a corresponding decrease of mRNA, the relative mRNA levels for IL-6 and TNF-α were actually increased (20-fold and 300-fold, respectively), indicating post-transcriptional and/or post-translational regulation of these cytokines. Due to highly variable levels among individual patients, however, no significant differences were observed for any cytokine mRNA between primary-culture and repeated-passage RA-SFB (ninth passage). Likewise, no significant differences were detectable between RA-SFB and normal-skin fibroblasts (primary-culture and repeated-passage). By producing high amounts of IL-6 and limited amounts of TNF-α, RA-SFB may contribute to the (im)balance of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the inflamed joint.
PMCID: PMC83845  PMID: 11879547
cytokines; inflammation; mRNA; rheumatoid arthritis; synovial fibroblasts
25.  Contributions of differential p53 expression in the spontaneous immortalization of a chicken embryo fibroblast cell line 
BMC Cell Biology  2006;7:27.
The present study was carried out to determine whether the p53 pathway played a role in the spontaneous immortalization of the SC-2 chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF) cell line that has been in continuous culture for over three years.
The SC-2 cell line emerged from an extended crisis period with a considerably slower growth rate than primary CEF cells. The phenotype of the SC-2 cells changed dramatically at about passage 80, appearing smaller than at earlier passages (e.g., passage 43) and possessing a small, compact morphology. This morphological change coincided with an increase in growth rate. Passage 43 SC-2 cells expressed undetectable levels of p53 mRNA, but by passage 95, the levels were elevated compared to primary passage 6 CEF cells and similar to levels in senescent CEF cells. However, the high level of p53 mRNA detected in passage 95 SC-2 cells did not correlate to functional protein activity. The expression levels of the p53-regulated p21WAF1 gene were significantly decreased in all SC-2 passages that were analyzed. Examination of the Rb pathway revealed that E2F-1 and p15INK4b expression fluctuated with increasing passages, with levels higher in passage 95 SC-2 cells compared to primary passage 6 CEF cells.
The present study suggests that altered expression of genes involved in the p53 and Rb pathways, specifically, p53 and p21WAF1, may have contributed to the immortalization of the SC-2 CEF cell line.
PMCID: PMC1533818  PMID: 16813656

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