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1.  Interferon ß stimulates interleukin 1 receptor antagonist production in human articular chondrocytes and synovial fibroblasts 
Background: Interferon (IFN) ß displays anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activity and has been considered for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Information about the effects of this molecule on joint cells is scarce, however.
Objective: To investigate the effects of IFNß on the production of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL1Ra) in human articular chondrocytes and synovial fibroblasts.
Methods: Chondrocytes and synovial fibroblasts were stimulated with IFNß alone or in combination with interleukin (IL) 1ß. IL1Ra concentrations in culture supernatants and cell lysates were determined by ELISA. Expression of mRNA encoding the secreted sIL1Ra or the intracellular icIL1Ra1 isoforms was quantified by real time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction.
Results: In chondrocytes, IFNß alone had no effect, but dose dependently enhanced the secretion of IL1Ra induced by IL1ß. Chondrocyte cell lysates contained undetectable or low levels of IL1Ra, even after stimulation with IL1ß and IFNß. Consistently, IL1ß and IFNß induced sIL1Ra mRNA expression in chondrocytes, while expression of icIL1Ra1 was not detectable. Human articular chondrocytes thus mainly produce secreted IL1Ra. In synovial fibroblasts, IFNß alone dose dependently increased IL1Ra secretion. In addition, IFNß enhanced the stimulatory effect of IL1ß on IL1Ra production. In synovial cell lysates, IFNß and IL1ß also increased IL1Ra levels. Consistently, IFNß and IL1ß induced the expression of both sIL1Ra and icIL1Ra1 mRNA in synovial fibroblasts.
Conclusion: IFNß increases IL1Ra production in joint cells, which may be beneficial in cartilage damaging diseases such as RA or osteoarthritis.
PMCID: PMC1754734  PMID: 14672890
2.  Interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) is an acute-phase protein. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1997;99(12):2930-2940.
Interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) levels are elevated in the blood of patients with a variety of infectious, immune, or traumatic conditions. To examine whether IL1Ra is produced by liver cells with characteristics resembling an acute-phase protein, human primary hepatocytes isolated from liver biopsies and HepG2 hepatoma cells were stimulated with IL-1beta, IL-6, and TNFalpha. IL-1Ra was present in the supernatants of both cells, with production significantly enhanced by IL-1beta, and by the combination of IL-1beta and IL-6. The term IL-1Ra refers to two different proteins encoded by the same gene, but generated by alternative splicing of two different first exons. One isoform is secreted (17-kD sIL-1Ra), and the other isoform remains in the cytoplasm (18-kD icIL-1Ra). By Western blot analysis, the supernatants of human hepatoma (HepG2) cells contained only sIL-1Ra, whereas the lysates contained a novel smaller molecular mass isoform of 16 kD. RT-PCR and ribonuclease protection assay with RNA from HepG2 cells showed that only sIL-1Ra mRNA was expressed, and confirmed the inducing effect of IL-1beta and IL-6. Transfection studies were performed using constructs containing the promoters of either sIL-1Ra or icIL-1Ra coupled to the luciferase reporter gene. The sIL-1Ra promoter was active in HepG2 cells stimulated by IL-1beta and/or IL-6, whereas the icIL-1Ra promoter was inactive. Mutation of binding sites for transcription factors NF-kappaB and/or C/EBP within the proximal sIL-1Ra promoter led to significant decreases in response to IL-1beta and IL-6 in comparison to the wild-type promoter. Electromobility gel shift assays confirmed the presence of NF-kappaB and C/EBP binding sites within the sIL-1Ra promoter, and indicated a significant increase in the binding activities of nuclear proteins from HepG2 cells treated with IL-1beta and IL-6. In summary, sIL-1Ra, but not icIL-1Ra, is produced by hepatocytes, and is regulated by proinflammatory cytokines as an acute-phase protein. In addition, NF-kappaB and C/EBP family members are likely to play important roles in the full expression of IL-1Ra by hepatocytes during inflammatory conditions.
PMCID: PMC508145  PMID: 9185517
3.  Novel production of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist peptides in normal human cornea. 
Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) is an important modulator of IL-1 activity in a variety of tissues. IL-1ra is differentially produced by different cell types as a 22-26-kD secreted peptide (sIL-1ra) and/or a smaller 16- or 18-kD intracellular peptide (icIL-1ra). This study was undertaken to evaluate the production of IL-1ra in the human cornea. IL-1ra mRNA can be detected in early passage human corneal epithelial cells and corneal stromal fibroblasts and is significantly enhanced by IL-1. Corneal endothelial cells do not express IL-1ra mRNA. Immunohistochemical studies of cultured corneal cells and whole human cornea demonstrate IL-1ra protein production by both the epithelial and stromal cells but not the endothelial cells. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, ELISA, and immunoprecipitation studies indicate that corneal epithelial cells are capable of producing both icIL-1ra and sIL-1ra forms of IL-1ra whereas the corneal stromal cells produce only icIL-1ra. In addition to the larger 18-kD icIL-1ra, both corneal epithelial and stromal cells are also capable of producing a smaller recently described 16-kD icIL-1ra. Thus, the differential production of IL-1ra in the human cornea is unique; whereas both epithelial and stromal cells produce icIL-1ra (type 1 and type 2), the epithelial cells appear to also produce sIL-1ra. It is proposed that these IL-1ra proteins may play an important role in regulating IL-1-induced corneal inflammation.
PMCID: PMC295376  PMID: 7814649
4.  Effects of short-term glucocorticoid treatment on changes in cartilage matrix degradation and chondrocyte gene expression induced by mechanical injury and inflammatory cytokines 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(5):R142.
Traumatic joint injury damages cartilage and causes adjacent joint tissues to release inflammatory cytokines, increasing the risk of developing osteoarthritis. The main objective of this study was to determine whether the combined catabolic effects of mechanical injury, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and interleukin-6 (IL-6)/soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R) on cartilage could be abolished by short-term treatment with glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone.
In an initial dexamethasone-dose-response study, bovine cartilage explants were treated with TNFα and increasing concentrations of dexamethasone. Bovine and human cartilage explants were then subjected to individual and combined treatments with TNFα, IL-6/sIL-6R and injury in the presence or absence of dexamethasone. Treatment effects were assessed by measuring glycosaminoglycans (GAG) release to the medium and synthesis of proteoglycans. Additional experiments tested whether pre-exposure of cartilage to dexamethasone could prevent GAG loss and inhibition of biosynthesis induced by cytokines, and whether post-treatment with dexamethasone could diminish the effects of pre-established cytokine insult. Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) levels for genes involved in cartilage homeostasis (proteases, matrix molecules, cytokines, growth and transcription factors) were measured in explants subjected to combined treatments with injury, TNFα and dexamethasone. To investigate mechanisms associated with dexamethasone regulation of chondrocyte metabolic response, glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonist (RU486) and proprotein convertase inhibitor (RVKR-CMK) were used.
Dexamethasone dose-dependently inhibited GAG loss and the reduction in biosynthesis caused by TNFα. The combination of mechanical injury, TNFα and IL-6/sIL-6R caused the most severe GAG loss; dexamethasone reduced this GAG loss to control levels in bovine and human cartilage. Additionally, dexamethasone pre-treatment or post-treatment of bovine explants lowered GAG loss and increased proteoglycan synthesis in cartilage explants exposed to TNFα. Dexamethasone did not down-regulate aggrecanase mRNA levels. Post-transcriptional regulation by dexamethasone of other genes associated with responses to injury and cytokines was noted. GR antagonist reversed the effect of dexamethasone on sulfate incorporation. RVKR-CMK significantly reduced GAG loss caused by TNFα + IL-6 + injury.
Short-term glucocorticoid treatment effectively abolished the catabolic effects exerted by the combination of pro-inflammatory cytokines and mechanical injury: dexamethasone prevented proteoglycan degradation and restored biosynthesis. Dexamethasone appears to regulate the catabolic response of chondrocytes post-transcriptionally, since the abundance of transcripts encoding aggrecanases was still elevated in the presence of dexamethasone.
PMCID: PMC3308070  PMID: 21888631
5.  Biological significance of soluble IL-2 receptor 
Mediators of Inflammation  1993;2(1):3-21.
A NUMBER of receptors for growth factors and differentiation antigens have been found to be secreted or released by cells. Following mononuclear cell (MNC) activation and interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) expression, a soluble form of the Alpha;-chain of IL-2R (sIL-2R) is released. The sIL-2R has been shown to be present in the culture supernatants of activated MNCs as well as in normal sera and, in higher amounts, in sera from subjects affected by several diseases including neoplastic, infectious and autoimmune ones, and in sera from transplanted patients suffering allograft rejection. The blood sIL-2R levels depend on the number of producing cells and the number of molecules per cell, so that sIL-2R blood values may represent an index of the number and the functional state of producing cells, both normal and neoplastic. Thus, monitoring of the immune system, mostly T-cells and haematological malignancies might be targets for the measurement of sIL-2R. Since many conditions may influence sIL-2R production, little diagnostic use may result from these measurements. However, since blood sIL-2R levels may correlate with disease progression and/or response to therapy, their measurement may be a useful index of activity and extent of disease. The precise biological role of the soluble form of the IL-2R is still a matter of debate. However, we know that increased sIL-2R levels may be observed in association with several immunological abnormalities and that sIL-2R is able to bind IL-2. It is conceivable then that in these conditions the excess sIL-2R released in vivo by activated lymphoid cells or by neoplastic cells may somehow regulate IL-2-dependent processes. On the other hand, it cannot exclude that sIL-2R is a by-product without biological significance. Finally, it is puzzling that in many conditions in which an increase of blood sIL-2R values has been observed, MNCs display a decreased in vitro capacity to produce sIL-2R. These seemingly contrasting findings are discussed in the light of the data showing that sIL-2R production correlates with IL-2 production.
PMCID: PMC2365387  PMID: 18475497
6.  Construction and characterization of a replication-deficient adenovirus expressing rat-soluble interleukin-6 receptor. 
Molecular Medicine  1997;3(8):519-529.
BACKGROUND: The pleiotropic cytokine interleukin-6 mediates its multiple effects at the cell level through a multimeric receptor consisting of a binding protein (gp80) and a signal transducer (gp130). A soluble form of gp80 (sIL-6R or gp55) is found released from the surface of cells and appears to possess interleukin-6 (IL-6) agonist activity. Increases in circulating levels of sIL-6R have been reported in different pathological conditions but the precise role of this protein in vivo remains unknown. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The cDNA encoding the extracellular domain of the rat IL-6R (sIL-6R) with an appropriate leader sequence has been cloned into the E1 region of an adenovirus vector under the control of the hCMV promoter (Ad5.sIL-6R). RESULTS: Infection of different human or rodent cell lines with Ad5.sIL-6R leads to extended production of recombinant sIL-6R protein into the culture media. The kinetics of transgene expression depends both on the cell type and the species. sIL-6R produced in this manner is biologically active as it confers responsiveness of human hepatoma cells (HepG2) to rat IL-6 stimulation. Adenovirus vectors have been shown to be highly effective for transient delivery of cytokines in vivo. Antibodies against recombinant rat soluble IL-6R were generated and an ELISA developed that allowed us to quantify sIL-6R concentrations. The sIL-6R expressing adenovirus vector has been instilled intratracheally into rats and induced an increase in lung sIL-6R concentration from Day 1 up to Day 10. We demonstrate the potency of our system to deliver in vivo or in vitro soluble cytokine receptors in a prolonged but transient manner.
PMCID: PMC2230182  PMID: 9307980
7.  Rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts produce a soluble form of the interleukin-7 receptor in response to pro-inflammatory cytokines 
We previously demonstrated that baseline synovial overexpression of the interleukin-7 receptor α-chain (IL-7R) is associated with poor response to tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockade in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We found that IL-7R gene expression is induced in fibroblast-like synovial cells (FLS) by the addition of TNF-α, IL-1β and combinations of TNF-α+ IL-1β or TNF-α+ IL-17, thereby suggesting that these cytokines play a role in the resistance to TNF blockade in RA. Because FLS and CD4 T cells also produce a soluble form of IL-7R (sIL-7R), resulting from an alternative splicing of the full-length transcript, we wondered whether expression of sIL-7R is similarly regulated by pro-inflammatory cytokines. We also investigated whether sIL-7R is detectable in the serum of RA patients and associated with response to TNF blockade. RA FLS were cultured in the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines and sIL-7R concentrations were measured in culture supernatants. Similarly, sIL-7R titres were measured in sera obtained from healthy individuals, early untreated RA patients with active disease and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD)-resistant RA patients prior to initiation of TNF-blockade. Baseline serum sIL-7R titres were correlated with validated clinical measurements of disease activity. We found that exposure of RA FLS to pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β and combinations of TNF-α and IL-1β or TNF-α and IL-17) induces sIL-7R secretion. Activated CD4 T cells also produce sIL-7R. sIL-7R serum levels are higher in RA patients as compared to controls. In DMARD-resistant patients, high sIL-7R serum concentrations are strongly associated with poor response to TNF-blockade. In conclusion, sIL-7R is induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines in RA FLS. sIL-7R could qualify as a new biomarker of response to therapy in RA.
PMCID: PMC3822945  PMID: 21129157
rheumatoid arthritis; TNF blockade; biomarker; interleukin-7 receptor α-chain
8.  Effect of soluble interleukin-6 receptor alpha and interleukin-6 secreted by polymorphonuclear leukocytes on tumor necrosis factor-alpha expression and its production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells. 
Mediators of Inflammation  2002;11(5):325-328.
BACKGROUND: It has recently been shown that soluble interleukin-6 receptor (sIL-6R) alone or complexed with interleukin (IL)-6, besides their regulatory role in a wide variety of both normal and abnormal biologic reactions mediated by IL-6, could be an effective stimulator of the cell function. AIMS: The key question of the present study is whether the sIL-6Ralpha or sIL-6R with IL-6 released by polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) can influence cytokine secretion such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), which together with PMN develop the inflammatory and immune response of a host. METHODS: Cells were isolated from heparinized whole blood of healthy persons. The PMN were cultured for 1 h at 37 degrees C in 5% CO(2). After incubation, the culture supernatant of PMN was removed and was added to PBMC. The PBMC were cultured for 1 h at 37 degrees C in the same conditions. In the culture supernatants and lysates of PMN, we examined the concentrations of sIL-6R by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). TNF-alpha was measured at both protein and mRNA levels. Protein levels were determined by ELISA. To examine TNF-alpha mRNA expression, we isolated mRNA from PBMC after culture, using TRIZOL Reagent. The quantity of mRNA TNF-alpha was determined by the Quantikine mRNA assay. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: The results obtained revealed that sIL-6R with IL-6 secreted by PMN may play a regulatory role in the immune response by modulating the TNF-alpha expression and its production by PBMC. This may have a significant influence on an early phase of the inflammation and other reactions mediated by TNF-alpha.
PMCID: PMC1781675  PMID: 12467526
9.  Cloning and characterization of a new isoform of the interleukin 1 receptor antagonist 
By reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction on messenger RNA from human polymorphonuclear cells, we have isolated a sequence identical to the cDNA coding for intracellular interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (icIL-1ra), but containing an additional in-frame 63-bp sequence located three codons downstream of the translation start of icIL-1ra. This additional sequence is inserted between the first and second exon of the intracellular form, the latter of which is colinear with part of the first exon of the secreted form of IL-1ra. The additional sequence is coded by an extra exon located 2 kb downstream the first icIL-1ra-specific exon. The complementary DNA sequence of the alternatively spliced form of icIL-1ra shows that the predicted protein differs from classical icIL-1ra in the NH2 terminus by insertion of a leaderless sequence of 21 amino acids rich in glycine and glutamic acid residues. Transcripts coding for this new form of icIL-1ra were detected in activated fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and at low levels in myelomonocytic cells. The recombinant protein expressed in COS cells had an apparent molecular mass in sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of 25 kD compared to 22 kD of classical icIL-1ra, and was mostly intracellular. The ability of this new form of icIL-1ra to inhibit IL-1 activity, in terms of induction of E-selectin and human immunodeficiency virus replication, was comparable to that of classical icIL-1ra. We propose to refer to this new form of icIL-1ra as icIL-1ra type II.
PMCID: PMC2192137  PMID: 7629520
10.  α-Melanocyte-stimulating-hormone (α-MSH) modulates human chondrocyte activation induced by proinflammatory cytokines 
Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating-hormone (α-MSH) has marked anti-inflammatory potential. Proinflammatory cytokines are critical mediators of the disturbed cartilage homeostasis in osteoarthritis, inhibiting anabolic activities and increasing catabolic activities in chondrocytes. Since human chondrocytes express α-MSH receptors, we evaluated the role of the peptide in modulating chondrocyte production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and nitric oxide (NO) in response to interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α).
Human articular chondrocytes were obtained from osteoarthritic joint cartilage from subjects undergoing hip routine arthroplasty procedures. The cells were cultured with or without α-MSH in the presence of IL-1β or TNF-α. Cell-free supernatants were collected and cells immediately lysed for RNA purification. Expression of cytokines, MMPs, TIMPs, iNOS was determined by Reverse Transcription Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Griess reaction was used for NO quantification.
Gene expression and secretion of IL-6, IL-8, MMP-3, MMP-13 were significantly increased in IL-1β or TNF-α-stimulated chondrocytes; α-MSH did not modify the release of IL-6 or IL-8 while the peptide significantly reduced their gene expression on TNF-α-stimulated cells. A significant inhibition of MMP3 gene expression and secretion from IL-1β or TNFα-stimulated chondrocytes was induced by α-MSH. On the other hand, α-MSH did not modify the release of MMP-13 by cytokine-stimulated chondrocyte but significantly decreased gene expression of the molecule on TNF-α-stimulated cells. Detectable amount of TIMP-3 and TIMP-4 were present in the supernatants of resting chondrocytes and a significant increase of TIMP-3 gene expression and release was induced by α-MSH on unstimulated cells. TIMP-3 secretion and gene expression were significantly increased in IL-1β-stimulated chondrocytes and α-MSH down-regulated gene expression but not secretion of the molecule. TIMP-4 gene expression (but not secretion) was moderately induced in IL-1β-stimulated chondrocytes with a down-regulation exerted by α-MSH. IL-1β and TNF-α were potent stimuli for NO production and iNOS gene expression by chondrocytes; no inhibition was induced by α-MSH on cytokine-stimulated NO production, while the peptide significantly reduced gene expression of iNOS.
Our results underscore a potential anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective activity exerted by α-MSH, increasing TIMP-3 gene expression and release on resting cells and down- modulating TNF-α-induced activation of human chondrocytes. However, the discrepancy between the influences exerted by α-MSH on gene expression and protein release as well as the difference in the inhibitory pattern exerted by α-MSH in TNF-α- or IL-1β-stimulated cells leave some uncertainty on the role of the peptide on chondrocyte modulation.
PMCID: PMC4475285  PMID: 26093672
11.  The effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on matrix metalloproteinase and prostaglandin E2 production by cells of the rheumatoid lesion 
Arthritis Research  1999;1(1):63-70.
The biologically active metabolite of vitamin D3, 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)2D3], acts through vitamin D receptors, which were found in rheumatoid tissues in the present study. IL-1β-activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocytes were shown to respond differently to exposure to 1α,25(OH)2D3, which has different effects on the regulatory pathways of specific matrix metalloproteinases and prostaglandin E2.
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1α,25(OH)2D3], the biologically active metabolite of vitamin D3, acts through an intracellular vitamin D receptor (VDR) and has several immunostimulatory effects. Animal studies have shown that production of some matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) may be upregulated in rat chondrocytes by administration of 1α,25(OH)2D3; and cell cultures have suggested that 1α,25(OH)2D3 may affect chondrocytic function. Discoordinate regulation by vitamin D of MMP-1 and MMP-9 in human mononuclear phagocytes has also been reported. These data suggest that vitamin D may regulate MMP expression in tissues where VDRs are expressed. Production of 1α,25(OH)2D3 within synovial fluids of arthritic joints has been shown and VDRs have been found in rheumatoid synovial tissues and at sites of cartilage erosion. The physiological function of 1α,25(OH)2D3 at these sites remains obscure. MMPs play a major role in cartilage breakdown in the rheumatoid joint and are produced locally by several cell types under strict control by regulatory factors. As 1α,25(OH)2D3 modulates the production of specific MMPs and is produced within the rheumatoid joint, the present study investigates its effects on MMP and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production in two cell types known to express chondrolytic enzymes.
To investigate VDR expression in rheumatoid tissues and to examine the effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on cultured rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts (RSFs) and human articular chondrocytes (HACs) with respect to MMP and PGE2 production.
Rheumatoid synovial tissues were obtained from arthroplasty procedures on patients with late-stage rheumatoid arthritis; normal articular cartilage was obtained from lower limb amputations. Samples were embedded in paraffin, and examined for presence of VDRs by immunolocalisation using a biotinylated antibody and alkaline-phosphatase-conjugated avidin-biotin complex system. Cultured synovial fibroblasts and chondrocytes were treated with either 1α,25(OH)2D3, or interleukin (IL)-1β or both. Conditioned medium was assayed for MMP and PGE2 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and the results were normalised relative to control values.
The rheumatoid synovial tissue specimens (n = 18) immunostained for VDRs showed positive staining but at variable distributions and in no observable pattern. VDR-positive cells were also observed in association with some cartilage-pannus junctions (the rheumatoid lesion). MMP production by RSFs in monolayer culture was not affected by treatment with 1α,25(OH)2D3 alone, but when added simultaneously with IL-1β the stimulation by IL-1β was reduced from expected levels by up to 50%. In contrast, 1α,25(OH)2D3 had a slight stimulatory effect on basal production of MMPs 1 and 3 by monolayer cultures of HACs, but stimulation of MMP-1 by IL-1β was not affected by the simultaneous addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3 whilst MMP-3 production was enhanced (Table 1). The production of PGE2 by RSFs was unaffected by 1α,25(OH)2D3 addition, but when added concomitantly with IL-1β the expected IL-1 β-stimulated increase was reduced to almost basal levels. In contrast, IL-1β stimulation of PGE2 in HACs was not affected by the simultaneous addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3 (Table 2). Pretreatment of RSFs with 1α,25(OH)2D3 for 1 h made no significant difference to IL-1β-induced stimulation of PGE2, but incubation for 16 h suppressed the expected increase in PGE2 to control values. This effect was also noted when 1α,25(OH)2D3 was removed after the 16h and the IL-1 added alone. Thus it appears that 1α,25(OH)2D3 does not interfere with the IL-1β receptor, but reduces the capacity of RSFs to elaborate PGE2 after IL-1β induction.
Cells within the rheumatoid lesion which expressed VDR were fibroblasts, macrophages, lymphocytes and endothelial cells. These cells are thought to be involved in the degradative processes associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), thus providing evidence of a functional role of 1α,25(OH)2D3 in RA. MMPs may play important roles in the chondrolytic processes of the rheumatoid lesion and are known to be produced by both fibroblasts and chondrocytes. The 1α,25(OH)2D3 had little effect on basal MMP production by RSFs, although more pronounced differences were noted when IL-1β-stimulated cells were treated with 1α,25(OH)2D3, with the RSF and HAC showing quite disparate responses. These opposite effects may be relevant to the processes of joint destruction, especially cartilage loss, as the ability of 1α,25(OH)2D3 to potentiate MMP-1 and MMP-3 expression by 'activated' chondrocytes might facilitate intrinsic cartilage chondrolysis in vivo. By contrast, the MMP-suppressive effects observed for 1α,25(OH)2D3 treatment of 'activated' synovial fibroblasts might reduce extrinsic chondrolysis and also matrix degradation within the synovial tissue. Prostaglandins have a role in the immune response and inflammatory processes associated with RA. The 1α,25(OH)2D3 had little effect on basal PGE2 production by RSF, but the enhanced PGE2 production observed following IL-1β stimulation of these cells was markedly suppressed by the concomitant addition of 1α,25(OH)2D3. As with MMP production, there are disparate effects of 1α,25(OH)2D3 on IL-1β stimulated PGE2 production by the two cell types; 1α,25(OH)2D3 added concomitantly with IL-1β had no effect on PGE2 production by HACs. In summary, the presence of VDRs in the rheumatoid lesion demonstrates that 1α,25(OH)2D3 may have a functional role in the joint disease process. 1α,25(OH)2D3 does not appear to directly affect MMP or PGE2 production but does modulate cytokine-induced production.
Comparative effects of 1 α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1 α,25D3) on interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 and MMP-3 production by rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocytes in vivo
Data given are normalized relative to control values and are expressed ± SEM for three cultures of each cell type.
Comparative effects of 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1α,25D3) on Interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated prostaglandin E2 production by rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts and human articular chondrocyte in vivo
Data given are normalized relative to control values and are expressed ± SEM for three cultures of each cell type.
PMCID: PMC17774  PMID: 11056661
1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3; matrix metalloproteinase; prostaglandin E2; rheumatoid arthritis
The normal structure and function of articular cartilage is the result of a precisely balanced interaction between anabolic and catabolic processes. The TGF-β family of growth factors generally exerts an anabolic or repair response; in contrast, proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β and TNF-α exert a strong catabolic effect. Recent evidence has shown that IL-1β, and TNF-α, and the TGF-β signaling pathways share an antagonistic relationship. The aim of this study was to determine whether the modulation of the response of articular chondrocytes to TGF-β by IL-1β or TNF-α signaling pathways occurs through regulation of activity and availability of Smad proteins.
Human articular chondrocytes isolated from knee joints from patients with osteoarthritis (OA) or normal bovine chondrocytes were cultured in suspension in polyHEMA-coated dishes with either 10% FBS media or serum-deprived media six hours before treatment with IL-1β alone, TNF-α alone or IL-1β followed by TGF-β. Nuclear extracts were examined by electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) for NF-κB and Smad3/4 DNA binding. Nuclear extracts were also subjected to the TranSignal Protein/DNA array (Panomics, Redwood City, CA) enabling the simultaneous semiquantitative assessment of DNA-binding activity of 54 different transcription factors. Nuclear phospho-Smad2/3 and total Smad7 protein expression in whole cell lysates were studied by Western blot. Cytoplasmic Smad7, COL2A1, aggrecan and SOX9 mRNA expression was measured by real-time PCR.
The DNA-binding activity of Smad3/4 in the TranSignal Protein/DNA array was down-regulated by TNF-α (46%) or IL-1β treatment (42%). EMSA analysis showed a consistent reduction in Smad 3/4 DNA-binding activity in human articular chondrocytes treated with IL-1β or TNF-α. TGF-β-induced Smad3/4 DNA-binding activity and Smad2/3 phosphorylation were also reduced following pre-treatment with IL-1β in human OA and bovine chondrocytes. Real-Time PCR and Western blot analysis showed that IL-1β partially reversed the TGF-β stimulation of Smad7 mRNA and protein levels in TGF-β-treated human OA cells. In contrast, TGF-β-stimulated COL2A1, aggrecan, and SOX9 mRNA levels were abrogated by IL-1β.
IL-1β or TNF-α exerted a suppressive effect on Smad3/4 DNA-binding activity in human articular chondrocytes, as well, as on TGF-β-induced stimulation of Smad3/4 DNA-binding activity and Smad 2/3 phosphorylation in human OA and bovine articular chondrocytes. IL-1β partially reversed the increase in TGF-β-stimulated Smad7 mRNA or protein levels suggesting that Smad7 may not be involved in the suppression of TGF-β signaling induced by IL-1β or TNF-α in articular chondrocytes. The balance between the IL-1β or TNF-α and the TGF-β signaling pathways is crucial for maintenance of articular cartilage homeostasis and its disruption likely plays a substantial role in the pathogenesis of OA.
PMCID: PMC2153443  PMID: 17604656
13.  Articular cartilage chondrocytes express aromatase and use enzymes involved in estrogen metabolism 
Sex hormones, especially estrogens, have been implicated in articular cartilage metabolism and the pathogenesis of postmenopausal osteoarthritis. The conversion by aromatase (CYP19A1) of androstenedione into estrone (E1) and of testosterone into 17β-estradiol (E2) plays a key role in the endogenous synthesis of estrogens in tissue.
We analyzed the expression of aromatase (CYP19A1) in immortalized C-28/I2 and T/C-28a2 chondrocytes, as well as in cultured primary human articular chondrocytes and human articular cartilage tissue, by means of RT-PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. By means of quantitative RT-PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we also determined whether the aromatase inhibitor letrozole influences estrogen metabolism of cultured chondrocytes in immortalized C-28/I2 chondrocytes.
Aromatase mRNA was detected in both immortalized chondrocyte cell lines, in cultured primary human chondrocytes, and in human articular cartilage tissue. By means of Western blot analysis, aromatase was detected at the protein level in articular cartilage taken from various patients of both sexes and different ages. Cultured primary human articular chondrocytes, C-28/I2 and T/C-28a2, and human articular cartilage tissue reacted with antibodies for aromatase. Incubation of C-28/I2 chondrocytes with 10−11 M to 10−7 M letrozole as an aromatase inhibitor revealed significantly increased amounts of the mRNAs of the enzyme cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1), which is involved in the catagen estrogen metabolism, and of the estrogen receptors ER-α and ER-β. Concomitantly, synthesis of estrone (E1) was significantly downregulated after incubation with letrozole.
We demonstrate that human articular cartilage expresses aromatase at the mRNA and protein levels. Blocking of estrone synthesis by the aromatase inhibitor letrozole is counteracted by an increase in ER-α and ER-β. In addition, CYP1A1, an enzyme involved in catabolic estrogen metabolism, is upregulated. This suggests that articular chondrocytes use ERs functionally. The role of endogenous synthesized estrogens in articular cartilage health remains to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC4060203  PMID: 24725461
14.  TLR5 Activation Induces Secretory Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist (sIL-1Ra) and Reduces Inflammasome-associated Tissue Damage 
Mucosal immunology  2010;4(1):102-111.
TLR5-mediated detection of flagellin induces NF-κB mediated transcription of host defense gene expression whereas recognition of intracellular flagellin by IPAF results in maturation/secretion of the inflammasome cytokine IL-1β. The potent effects of IL-1β are counter-regulated by secretory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (sIL-1Ra). We studied the roles of flagellin receptors in regulating the expression of IL-1β and sIL-1Ra and their subsequent roles in inflammation. Flagellin induced sIL-1Ra in intestinal epithelia and macrophages in a dose- and time-dependent manner while IL-1β was only induced in macrophages. In vivo, flagellin-induced sIL-1Ra, but not IL-1β was absolutely dependent upon TLR5 expressed on non-hemopioetic cells. Thus, loss of TLR5 increased the IL-1β/sIL-1Ra ratio upon flagellin treatment, which correlated with increased inflammatory pathology in response to this product. Furthermore, the flagellin/TLR5 interaction was important for induction of sIL-1Ra and limiting inflammatory pathology upon Salmonella infection. Lastly, reduced sIL-1Ra levels in TLR5KO mice correlated with spontaneous colitis. Taken together, we demonstrate that intestinal epithelia, despite not expressing IL-1β, secrete sIL-1Ra in a TLR5 dependent manner suggesting loss of TLR5 may promote inflammation via increasing IL-1β activity. Thus, optimizing the balance between inflammasome cytokines and their endogenous inhibitors might prove a useful strategy to treat inflammatory disorders.
PMCID: PMC3012739  PMID: 20844479
Flagellin; TLR5; sIL-1Ra; Inflammasome cytokines
15.  STAT1 is Constitutively Activated in the T/C28a2 Immortalized Juvenile Human Chondrocyte Line and Stimulated by IL-6 Plus Soluble IL-6R 
T/C28a2 immortalized juvenile human chondrocytes were employed to determine the extent to which activation of Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription-1 (STAT1) occurred in response to recombinant human interleukin-6 (rhIL-6) or rhIL-6 in combination with the soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R). Two forms of STAT1, STAT1A and STAT1B, were identified on SDS-PAGE and western blotting with anti-STAT1 antibody. Western blotting revealed that STAT1 was constitutively phosphorylated (p-STAT1). Although incubation of T/C28a2 chondrocytes with rhIL-6 (50 ng/ml) increased p-STAT1A by Δ=22.3% after 30 min, this percent difference failed to reach significance by Chi-square analysis. Similarly, no effect of rhIL-6 (Δ=+10.7%) on p-STAT1B was seen at 30 min. In contrast, although the combination of rhIL-6 plus sIL-6R had no effect on p-STAT1A, rhIL-6 plus sIL-6R increased p-STAT1B by Δ=73.3% (p<0.0001) after 30 min compared to the control group and by Δ=56.7% (p<0.0001) compared to rhIL-6 alone. Janex-1, a Janus kinase-3-specific inhibitor (100 μM) partially reduced the effect of rhIL-6 on p-STAT1B by Δ=27.7% (p<0.05). The results of this study showed that STAT1A/STAT1B was constitutively activated in T/C28a2 chondrocytes. Although rhIL-6 increased p-STAT1B to a small extent, the combination of rhIL-6 plus sIL-6R was far more effective in stimulating STAT1B phosphorylation compared to controls or rhIL-6 alone. These data support the likelihood that although JAK3-mediated activation of STAT1 in T/C28a2 chondrocytes may involve the IL-6/IL-6R/gp130 pathway, these results indicated that STAT1 activation in response to IL-6 preferentially involved IL-6 trans-signaling via sIL-6R.
PMCID: PMC4512305  PMID: 26213636
Chondrocyte; Rheumatoid arthritis; Cytokine
16.  C-reactive Protein: A Physiological Activator of Interleukin 6 Receptor Shedding  
The soluble interleukin 6 receptor (sIL-6R) circulates at elevated levels in various diseases. This suggests that inflammatory mediators control sIL-6R release. Through examination of human neutrophils, it was found that the acute phase reactant C-reactive protein (CRP) activates a threefold increase in sIL-6R production. Maximal release occurred after 30–60 min exposure to CRP (50 μg/ml), and was mimicked by peptides corresponding to amino acid residues 174– 185 and 201–206 of native CRP. A third peptide fragment (77–82) had no effect. Differential mRNA splicing did not account for the CRP-mediated release of sIL-6R, since this isoform was not detected in conditioned media. Furthermore, stimulation of neutrophils with CRP or with peptides 174–185 or 201–206 promoted a loss of membrane-bound IL-6R, suggesting release by proteolytic shedding. The metalloprotease inhibitor TAPI had only a marginal effect on CRP-mediated sIL-6R release, suggesting that shedding occurs via a mechanism distinct from that previously reported. It well established that IL-6 stimulates the acute phase expression of CRP. Our current findings demonstrate a novel relationship between these two mediators, since CRP may affect IL-6–mediated inflammatory events by enabling formation of the sIL-6R/IL-6 complex.
PMCID: PMC2192917  PMID: 9927522
cytokines; interleukin 6; soluble receptors; acute phase proteins; inflammation
17.  Interleukin 6 is autoregulated by transcriptional mechanisms in cultures of rat osteoblastic cells. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1997;100(7):1797-1803.
Interleukin 6 (IL-6), a cytokine produced by skeletal cells, stimulates osteoclast recruitment. The IL-6 soluble receptor (sIL-6R) increases IL-6 activity, and IL-6 and sIL-6R levels are increased in conditions of increased bone resorption. We examined the production of IL-6 by primary rat osteoblasts (Ob cells) cultured in the presence of IL-6 and sIL-6R. IL-6 alone did not induce IL-6 transcripts, but IL-6 was stimulatory in the presence of sIL-6R. Furthermore, sIL-6R by itself increased IL-6 transcripts. Cycloheximide superinduced IL-6 transcripts and did not prevent the effect of IL-6 and sIL-6R. IL-6 in the presence of sIL-6R stimulated IL-6 rates of transcription and the activity of IL-6 promoter fragments in transiently transfected Ob cells. 5' deletions of the IL-6 promoter and targeted mutations of the multiple response element (MRE)/cAMP responsive element (CRE), the nuclear factor for IL-6 (NF-IL-6), and the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) binding sites indicated that NF-IL-6 and NF-kappaB, in combination with MRE/CRE, binding sites are required for the induction of the IL-6 promoter by IL-6. In conclusion, IL-6 induces its own synthesis in osteoblasts by transcriptional mechanisms. This positive feedback may be important in conditions of increased bone resorption.
PMCID: PMC508365  PMID: 9312180
18.  Statins suppress interleukin-6-induced monocyte chemo-attractant protein-1 by inhibiting Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription pathways in human vascular endothelial cells 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2010;159(6):1294-1303.
Background and purpose:
The mechanisms of anti-inflammatory actions of statins, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors, remain unclear. We investigated the effects of statins on interleukin (IL)-6-induced monocyte chemo-attractant protein (MCP)-1 expression and monocyte chemotaxis.
Experimental approach:
Cultures of human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs) were stimulated with IL-6 in the absence and presence of statins. Gene expression and protein secretion of MCP-1, phosphorylation of Janus kinase (JAK) and the signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) pathway, and human monocyte migration were examined.
Key results:
IL-6 plus its soluble receptor sIL-6R (IL-6/sIL-6R) promoted THP-1 monocyte migration, and increased gene expression and protein secretion of MCP-1, more than IL-6 alone or sIL-6R alone. Various statins inhibited IL-6/sIL-6R-promoted monocyte migration and MCP-1 expression in HAECs. Co-incubation of mevalonate and geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate, but not farnesyl pyrophosphate, reversed the inhibitory effects of statins on MCP-1 expression. Geranylgeranyl transferase inhibitor, but not farnesyl transferase inhibitor, suppressed IL-6/sIL-6R-stimulated MCP-1 expression. IL-6/sIL-6R rapidly phosphorylated JAK1, JAK2, TYK2, STAT1 and STAT3, which were inhibited by statins. Transfection of STAT3 small interfering RNA (siRNA), but not STAT1 siRNA, attenuated the ability of IL-6/sIL-6R to enhance THP-1 monocyte migration. In addition, statins blocked IL-6/sIL-6R-induced translocation of STAT3 to the nucleus.
Conclusions and implications:
Statins suppressed IL-6/sIL-6R-induced monocyte chemotaxis and MCP-1 expression in HAECs by inhibiting JAK/STAT signalling cascades, explaining why statins have anti-inflammatory properties beyond cholesterol reduction.
PMCID: PMC2848933  PMID: 20136831
statin; interleukin-6; MCP-1, JAK; STAT; atherosclerosis; cells; endothelium; inflammation
19.  Role of interleukin-15 and interleukin-18 in the secretion of sIL-6R and sgp130 by human neutrophils. 
Mediators of Inflammation  2003;12(3):179-183.
BACKGROUND: Available data indicate that neutrophils (PMN) produce a wide range of cytokines with the potential to modulate immune response. Recent investigation have shown that interleukin (IL)-15 and IL-18 potentiated several functions of normal neutrophils. It has been reported that IL-18-induced cytokine production may be significantly enhanced by coincident addition of IL-15. AIMS: In the present study we compared the effect of recombinant human (rh)IL-15 and rhIL-18 as well as effect of a rhIL-15 and rhIL-18 combination on the induction secretion of sIL-6Ralpha and sgp130 by human neutrophils. METHODS: PMN were isolated from heparinized whole blood of healthy persons. The PMN were cultured for 18 h at 37 degrees C in a humidified incubator with 5% CO(2). rhIL-15 and/or rhIL-18 and lipopolysaccharide were tested to PMN stimulation. The culture supernatants of PMN were removed and examined for the presence of sIL-6R and sgp130 by human enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits. Cytoplasmic protein fractions of PMN were analysed for the presence of sIL-6R and sgp130 by western blotting using monoclonal antibodies capable of detecting these proteins. Cells were lysed and cytoplasmic proteins were electrophoresed on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The resolved proteins were transferred onto nitrocellulose and incubated with the primary monoclonal antibodies anti-sIL-6R and anti-sgp130. The membranes were incubated at room temperature with alkaline phosphatase anti-mouse immunoglobulin G. Immunoreactive protein bans were visualized by an AP Conjugate Substrate Kit. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The results of our investigation revealed that IL-15 alone, similarly to IL-18, has no significant ability for the regulation of both soluble IL-6 receptors, sIL-6R and sgp130, released by human neutrophils. It is interesting to note that the secretion of sgp130 was changed after PMN stimulation with rhIL-15 in the presence of rhIL-18. The combination of rhIL-15 and rhIL-18 was shown to induce PMN to secretion relatively higher amounts of sgp130 compared with the stimulation of PMN with rhIL-15 alone and rhIL-18 alone. The results obtained suggest that IL-15 and IL-18, belonging to the inflammatory cytokines, through the regulation of sgp130 secretion must be also considered as anti-inflammatory mediators that may influence the balance reactions mediated by the IL-6 cytokine family.
PMCID: PMC1781607  PMID: 12857602
20.  Palmitate has proapoptotic and proinflammatory effects on articular cartilage and synergizes with interleukin-1 
Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis (OA) that is associated with a state of low-grade inflammation, and increased circulating adipokines and free fatty acids (FFA). The aim of this study was to analyze effects of saturated (palmitate) and monounsaturated (oleate) free fatty acids (FFA) on articular chondrocytes and cartilage.
Human articular chondrocytes and fibroblast-like synoviocytes obtained from young healthy donors, and OA chondrocytes from patients undergoing total knee replacement were treated with palmitate or oleate alone or with interleukin 1-β (IL-1β). Cell viability, caspase activation, and gene expression of proinflammatory factors, extracellular matrix proteins, and extracellular proteases were studied. In addition, chondrocyte viability, interleukin-6 (IL-6) production and matrix damage were assessed in bovine and human articular cartilage explants cultured with FFA with or without IL-1β.
Palmitate, but not oleate, induced caspase activation and cell death in IL-1β-stimulated normal chondrocytes, and upregulated il6 and cox2 expression in chondrocytes and fibroblast-like synoviocytes through toll-like receptor-4 signaling. In cartilage explants, palmitate induced chondrocyte death, IL-6 release and extracellular matrix degradation. Palmitate synergized with IL-1β in stimulating proapoptotic and proinflammatory cellular responses. Pharmacological inhibition of caspases or TLR-4 signaling reduced palmitate and IL-1β-induced cartilage damage.
Palmitate acts as a pro-inflammatory and catabolic factor that, in synergy with IL-1β, induces chondrocyte apoptosis and articular cartilage breakdown. Collectively, our data suggest that elevated levels of saturated FFA often found in obesity may contribute to OA pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4077915  PMID: 24591481
Osteoarthritis; cartilage; fatty acids
21.  Functional Analysis of the Quorum-Sensing Streptococcal Invasion Locus (sil) 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(11):e1000651.
Group A streptococcus (GAS) causes a wide variety of human diseases, and at the same time, GAS can also circulate without producing symptoms, similar to its close commensal relative, group G streptococcus (GGS). We previously identified, by transposon-tagged mutagenesis, the streptococcal invasion locus (sil). sil is a quorum-sensing regulated locus which is activated by the autoinducer peptide SilCR through the two-component system SilA-SilB. Here we characterize the DNA promoter region necessary for SilA-mediated activation. This site is composed of two direct repeats of 10 bp, separated by a spacer of 11 bp. Fusion of this site to gfp allowed us to systematically introduce single-base substitutions in the repeats region and to assess the relative contribution of various positions to promoter strength. We then developed an algorithm giving different weights to these positions, and performed a chromosome-wide bioinformatics search which was validated by transcriptome analysis. We identified 13 genes, mostly bacteriocin related, that are directly under the control of SilA. Having developed the ability to quantify SilCR signaling via GFP accumulation prompted us to search for GAS and GGS strains that sense and produce SilCR. While the majority of GAS strains lost sil, all GGS strains examined still possess the locus and ∼63% are able to respond to exogenously added SilCR. By triggering the autoinduction circle using a minute concentration of synthetic SilCR, we identified GAS and GGS strains that are capable of sensing and naturally producing SilCR, and showed that SilCR can be sensed across these streptococci species. These findings suggest that sil may be involved in colonization and establishment of commensal host-bacterial relationships.
Author Summary
Cell-to-cell communication in bacteria is termed quorum-sensing (QS), which is triggered by signaling molecules called autoinducers. In streptococci, autoinducers are synthesized as immature peptides that are processed, secreted, and then sensed by two-component systems (TCSs). As a result, the autoinducer's own expression is upregulated (autoinduction), subsequently creating an ultrasensitive switch that turns on more genes. Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a human pathogen that causes many infections, including necrotizing fasciitis (NF). Previously, we identified in a NF GAS strain a QS locus termed streptococcal invasion locus (sil). Due to a mutation in the autoinducer peptide-SilCR, it is not produced by this strain. Here we sought to better explore sil and to examine if SilCR can be produced by other GAS strains, or strains of its close relative group G streptococcus (GGS). To this end, we characterized the DNA promoter region responsible for the TCS-mediated activation upon sensing of SilCR, and based on bioinformatics and transcriptome analyses we identified genes that are directly affected by the autoinducer peptide. By converting SilCR response to fluorescence production and turning on the autoinduction circle with minute concentrations of synthetic SilCR, we discovered naturally SilCR-producing GAS and GGS strains, and showed that SilCR can be sensed across these species. Our study describes a novel way of cell-to-cell communications among streptococci.
PMCID: PMC2766830  PMID: 19893632
22.  Mast cell activation and its relation to proinflammatory cytokine production in the rheumatoid lesion 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):65-74.
Mast cell (MC) activation in the rheumatoid lesion provides numerous mediators that contribute to inflammatory and degradative processes, especially at sites of cartilage erosion. MC activation in rheumatoid synovial tissue has often been associated with tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-1β production by adjacent cell types. By contrast, our in situ and in vitro studies have shown that the production of IL-15 was independent of MC activation, and was not related to TNF-α and IL-1β expression. Primary cultures of dissociated rheumatoid synovial cells produced all three proinflammatory cytokines, with production of IL-1β exceeding that of TNF-α, which in turn exceeded that of IL-15. In vitro cultures of synovial macrophages, synovial fibroblasts and articular chondrocytes all produced detectable amounts of free IL-15, macrophages being the most effective.
Increased numbers of mast cells (MCs) are found in the synovial tissues and fluids of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and at sites of cartilage erosion. MC activation has been reported for a significant proportion of rheumatoid specimens. Because the MC contains potent mediators, including histamine, heparin, proteinases, leukotrienes and multifunctional cytokines, its potential contributions to the processes of inflammation and matrix degradation have recently become evident.
Proinflammatory cytokines are important mediators of inflammation, immunity, proteolysis, cell recruitment and proliferation. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) reportedly plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of RA, especially its ability to regulate interleukin (IL)-1β expression, this being important for the induction of prostanoid and matrix metalloproteinase production by synovial fibroblasts and chondrocytes. IL-15 has been assigned numerous biological effects and has been implicated as an important factor in TNF-α expression by monocyte/macrophages. Some in vitro studies have placed IL-15 upstream from TNF-α in the cytokine cascade, suggesting an interdependence between TNF, IL-1 and IL-15 for the promotion of proinflammatory cytokine expression in the rheumatoid joint.
To examine the in situ relationships of TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-15 in relation to MC activation in rheumatoid tissues by use of immunolocalization techniques; and to compare quantitatively the proinflammatory cytokine production by specific cell cultures and rheumatoid synovial explants with and without exposure to a MC secretagogue.
Materials and methods:
Samples of rheumatoid synovial tissue and cartilage–pannus junction were obtained from patients (n = 15) with classic late-stage RA. Tissue sections were immunostained for MC (tryptase) and the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1, TNF-α and IL-15. Rheumatoid synovial tissue explants were cultured in Dulbecco's modified Eagles medium (DMEM) containing either the MC secretagogue rabbit antihuman immunoglobulin (Ig)E, or control rabbit IgG. Primary rheumatoid synovial cell cultures, human articular chondrocytes, synovial fibroblasts and synovial macrophages were prepared as described in the full article. Conditioned culture media from these cultures were collected and assayed for IL-1β, TNF-α and IL-15 using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay methodology.
Immunohistological studies of rheumatoid synovial tissues have demonstrated local concentrations of MCs in most specimens of the rheumatoid lesion. Sites of MC activation were associated with localized oedema, and TNF-α, IL-1α and IL-1β production by a proportion of mononuclear inflammatory cells. By contrast, no evidence was found for IL-15 production in tissue sites containing either intact or activated MCs, and IL-15 expression, when observed, bore no relation to tissue sites where TNF-α and IL-1β were evident. The immunodetection of IL-15 was restricted to microfocal sites and was not typical of most junctional specimens, but was associated with a proportion of articular chondrocytes in a minority of junctional specimens.
MC activation within synovial explant cultures was induced by the addition of polyclonal antibody to human IgE. MC activation significantly reduced the levels of TNF-α and IL1β released into the medium, this representing approximately 33% of control values. By contrast, MC activation had little effect on the levels of IL-15 released into the culture medium, the average value being very low in relation to the release of TNF-α and IL-1β . Thus, induced MC activation brings about changes in the amounts of released tryptase, TNF-α and IL-1β , but not of IL-15.
Four preparations of primary rheumatoid synovial cell cultures produced more IL-1β than TNF-α, with only modest values for IL-15 production, indicating that all three cytokines are produced and released as free ligands by these cultures. Of specific cell types that produced IL-15 in vitro, macrophages produced more than fibroblasts, which in turn produced more than chondrocytes. This demonstrates that all three cell types have the potential to produce IL-15 in situ.
The biological consequences of MC activation in vivo are extremely complex, and in all probability relate to the release of various combinations of soluble and granular factors, as well as to the expression of appropriate receptors by neighbouring cells. The subsequent synthesis and release of cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-1 may well follow at specific stages after activation, or may be an induced cytokine response by adjacent macrophagic or fibroblastic cells. However, because no IL-15 was detectable either in or around activated or intact MCs, and the induced MC activation explant study showed no change in IL-15 production, it seems unlikely that the expression of this cytokine is regulated by MCs. The immunohistochemistry (IHC) demonstration of IL-15 at sites of cartilage erosion, and especially by some chondrocytes of articular cartilage, showed no spatial relationship with either T cells or neutrophils, and suggests other functional properties in these locations. The lack of evidence for an in situ association of IL-15 with TNF and IL-1 does not support a role for IL-15 in a proinflammatory cytokine 'cascade', as proposed by other in vitro experiments. We believe that sufficient evidence is available, however, to suggest that MC activation makes a significant contribution to the pathophysiological processes of the rheumatoid lesion.
PMCID: PMC17805  PMID: 11219391
interleukin-15; interleukin-1β; mast cells; rheumatoid arthritis; tumour necrosis factor-α
23.  Lipopolysaccharide and Raf-1 kinase regulate secretory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist gene expression by mutually antagonistic mechanisms. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(3):1118-1128.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatment of monocytic cells has been shown to activate the Raf-1/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway and to increase secretory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (sIL-1Ra) gene expression. The significance of the activation of the Raf-1/MAPK signaling pathway to LPS regulation of sIL-1Ra gene expression, however, has not been determined. This study addresses the role of the Raf-1/MAPK signaling pathway in regulation of sIL-1Ra gene expression by LPS. Cotransfection of the murine macrophage cell line RAW 264.7 with a 294-bp sIL-1Ra promoter/luciferase construct (pRA-294-luc) and a constitutively active Raf-1 kinase expression vector (pRSV-Raf-BXB) resulted in induction of sIL-1Ra promoter activity, indicating that Raf-1, like LPS, can regulate sIL-1Ra promoter activity. An in vitro MAPK analysis indicated that both LPS treatment and pRSV-Raf-BXB transfection of RAW 264.7 cells increases p42 MAPK activity. An in vitro Raf-1 kinase assay, however, failed to detect LPS-induced Raf-1 kinase activity in RAW 264.7 cells, suggesting that in RAW 264.7 cells, Raf-1 kinase is not an activating component of the LPS signaling pathway regulating MAPK activity or sIL-1Ra promoter activity. This observation was supported by results from transfection studies which demonstrated that expression of a dominant-inhibitory Raf-1 mutant in RAW 264.7 cells does not inhibit LPS-induced MAPK activity or sIL-1Ra promoter activity, indicating that LPS-induced sIL-1Ra promoter activation occurs independent of the Raf-1/MAPK signaling pathway. In additional studies, cotransfection of RAW 264.7 cells with pRA-294-luc and increasing amounts of pRSV-Raf-BXB caused a dose-dependent inhibition of LPS-induced sIL-1Ra promoter activity, indicating that the role of the Raf-1 pathway in the regulation of sIL-1Ra promoter activity by LPS is as an antagonizer. Interestingly, LPS treatment of RAW 264.7 cells, cotransfected with pRA-294-luc and pRSV-Raf-BXB, also inhibited pRSV-Raf-BXB-induced sIL-1Ra promoter activity, suggesting that inductions of sIL-1Ra promoter activity by LPS and Raf-1 actually occur by mutually antagonistic mechanisms. In support of this conclusion, sIL-1Ra promoter mapping studies indicated that LPS and Raf-1 responses localized to different regions of the sIL-1Ra promoter. Further studies demonstrated that mutual antagonism between the LPS and Raf-1 kinase pathways is not promoter specific, as the same phenomenon is observed in assays using a c-fos enhancer/thymidine kinase promoter/luciferase construct (pc-fos-TK81-luc). Additionally, mutual antagonism with regard to sIL-1Ra promoter activity also was observed between the LPS and MEK kinase pathways, indicating that mutual antagonism can occur in more than one MAPK activation pathway.
PMCID: PMC231837  PMID: 9032239
24.  Induction of nerve growth factor expression and release by mechanical and inflammatory stimuli in chondrocytes: possible involvement in osteoarthritis pain 
Nerve growth factor (NGF) level is increased in osteoarthritis (OA) joints and is involved in pain associated with OA. Stimuli responsible for NGF stimulation in chondrocytes are unknown. We investigated whether mechanical stress and proinflammatory cytokines may influence NGF synthesis by chondrocytes.
Primary cultures of human OA chondrocytes, newborn mouse articular chondrocytes or cartilage explants were stimulated by increasing amounts of IL-1β, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), visfatin/nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) or by cyclic mechanical compression (0.5 Hz, 1 MPa). Before stimulation, chondrocytes were pretreated with indomethacin, Apo866, a specific inhibitor of NAMPT enzymatic activity, or transfected by siRNA targeting visfatin/NAMPT. mRNA NGF levels were assessed by real-time quantitative PCR and NGF released into media was determined by ELISA.
Unstimulated human and mouse articular chondrocytes expressed low levels of NGF (19.2 ± 8.7 pg/mL, 13.5 ± 1.0 pg/mL and 4.4 ± 0.8 pg/mL/mg tissue for human and mouse articular chondrocytes and costal explants, respectively). Mechanical stress induced NGF release in conditioned media. When stimulated by IL-1β or visfatin/NAMPT, a proinflammatory adipokine produced by chondocytes in response to IL-1β, a dose-dependent increase in NGF mRNA expression and NGF release in both human and mouse chondrocyte conditioned media was observed. Visfatin/NAMPT is also an intracellular enzyme acting as the rate-limiting enzyme of the generation of NAD. The expression of NGF induced by visfatin/NAMPT was inhibited by Apo866, whereas IL-1β-mediated NGF expression was not modified by siRNA targeting visfatin/NAMPT. Interestingly, PGE2, which is produced by chondrocytes in response to IL-1β and visfatin/NAMPT, did not stimulate NGF production. Consistently, indomethacin, a cyclooxygenase inhibitor, did not counteract IL-1β-induced NGF production.
These results show that mechanical stress, IL-1β and extracellular visfatin/NAMPT, all stimulated the expression and release of NGF by chondrocytes and thus suggest that the overexpression of visfatin/NAMPT and IL-1β in the OA joint and the increased mechanical loading of cartilage may mediate OA pain via the stimulation of NGF expression and release by chondrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3978639  PMID: 24438745
25.  Fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 is principally responsible for fibroblast growth factor 2-induced catabolic activities in human articular chondrocytes 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(4):R130.
Cartilage degeneration driven by catabolic stimuli is a critical pathophysiological process in osteoarthritis (OA). We have defined fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) as a degenerative mediator in adult human articular chondrocytes. Biological effects mediated by FGF-2 include inhibition of proteoglycan production, up-regulation of matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13), and stimulation of other catabolic factors. In this study, we identified the specific receptor responsible for the catabolic functions of FGF-2, and established a pathophysiological connection between the FGF-2 receptor and OA.
Primary human articular chondrocytes were cultured in monolayer (24 hours) or alginate beads (21 days), and stimulated with FGF-2 or FGF18, in the presence or absence of FGFR1 (FGF receptor 1) inhibitor. Proteoglycan accumulation and chondrocyte proliferation were assessed by dimethylmethylene blue (DMMB) assay and DNA assay, respectively. Expression of FGFRs (FGFR1 to FGFR4) was assessed by flow cytometry, immunoblotting, and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). The distinctive roles of FGFR1 and FGFR3 after stimulation with FGF-2 were evaluated using either pharmacological inhibitors or FGFR small interfering RNA (siRNA). Luciferase reporter gene assays were used to quantify the effects of FGF-2 and FGFR1 inhibitor on MMP-13 promoter activity.
Chondrocyte proliferation was significantly enhanced in the presence of FGF-2 stimulation, which was inhibited by the pharmacological inhibitor of FGFR1. Proteoglycan accumulation was reduced by 50% in the presence of FGF-2, and this reduction was successfully rescued by FGFR1 inhibitor. FGFR1 inhibitors also fully reversed the up-regulation of MMP-13 expression and promoter activity stimulated by FGF-2. Blockade of FGFR1 signaling by either chemical inhibitors or siRNA targeting FGFR1 rather than FGFR3 abrogated the up-regulation of matrix metalloproteinases 13 (MMP-13) and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with a thrombospondin type 1 motif 5 (ADAMTS5), as well as down-regulation of aggrecan after FGF-2 stimulation. Flow cytometry, qPCR and immunoblotting analyses suggested that FGFR1 and FGFR3 were the major FGFR isoforms expressed in human articular chondrocytes. FGFR1 was activated more potently than FGFR3 upon FGF-2 stimulation. In osteoarthritic chondrocytes, FGFR3 was significantly down regulated (P < 0.05) with a concomitant increase in the FGFR1 to FGFR3 expression ratio (P < 0.05), compared to normal chondrocytes. Our results also demonstrate that FGFR3 was negatively regulated by FGF-2 at the transcriptional level through the FGFR1-ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) signaling pathway in human articular chondrocytes.
FGFR1 is the major mediator with the degenerative potential in the presence of FGF-2 in human adult articular chondrocytes. FGFR1 activation by FGF-2 promotes catabolism and impedes anabolism. Disruption of the balance between FGFR1 and FGFR3 signaling ratio may contribute to the pathophysiology of OA.
PMCID: PMC3239372  PMID: 21835001

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