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1.  Citrullination of fibronectin modulates synovial fibroblast behavior 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R240.
Introduction
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune arthritis characterized by joint destruction. Anti-citrullinated protein antibodies are pathologic in rheumatoid arthritis, but the role of the citrullinated proteins themselves is much less clear. Citrullination is the conversion of the arginine residues of a protein to citrulline. In the inflamed rheumatoid joint there is increased protein citrullination. Several proteins are citrullinated in rheumatoid arthritis, including collagen type II, fibrinogen, and fibronectin. Fibronectin is thought to mediate the adhesion of joint-invading synovial fibroblasts to the rheumatoid cartilage in addition to regulating other synovial fibroblast functions. However, the effect of citrullinated fibronectin on synovial fibroblasts is unknown.
Methods
To investigate the effect of citrullinated fibronectin on synovial fibroblast behavior, we cultured normal murine, arthritic murine, and human rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts. We then compared several synovial fibroblast functions in the presence of fibronectin versus citrullinated fibronectin. We assessed adhesion with time-lapse microscopy, migration with transwell assays, focal adhesion kinase and paxillin phosphorylation by western blot, and focal matrix degradation by fluorescent gelatin degradation.
Results
Normal synovial fibroblasts have impaired adhesion, spreading, migration, and integrin-mediated phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase and paxillin on citrullinated fibronectin. Murine arthritic and human rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts also have impaired adhesion and spreading on citrullinated fibronectin, but focal matrix degradation is unaffected by citrullinated fibronectin.
Conclusion
Citrullination of fibronectin alters synovial fibroblast behavior and may affect how these cells adhere to and invade the joint and travel through the bloodstream. This work suggests an important role for the interaction of synovial fibroblasts with citrullinated matrix in the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1186/ar4083
PMCID: PMC3674601  PMID: 23127210
2.  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.
Introduction:
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.
Aims:
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.
Results:
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.
Discussion:
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
3.  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.
Introduction:
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.
Aims:
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.
Methods:
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.
Results:
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.
Discussion:
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
4.  Ectopic Lymphoid Structures Support Ongoing Production of Class-Switched Autoantibodies in Rheumatoid Synovium 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1.
Background
Follicular structures resembling germinal centres (GCs) that are characterized by follicular dendritic cell (FDC) networks have long been recognized in chronically inflamed tissues in autoimmune diseases, including the synovium of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, it is debated whether these ectopic structures promote autoimmunity and chronic inflammation driving the production of pathogenic autoantibodies. Anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies (ACPA) are highly specific markers of RA, predict a poor prognosis, and have been suggested to be pathogenic. Therefore, the main study objectives were to determine whether ectopic lymphoid structures in RA synovium: (i) express activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), the enzyme required for somatic hypermutation and class-switch recombination (CSR) of Ig genes; (ii) support ongoing CSR and ACPA production; and (iii) remain functional in a RA/severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) chimera model devoid of new immune cell influx into the synovium.
Methods and Findings
Using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and quantitative Taqman real-time PCR (QT-PCR) in synovial tissue from 55 patients with RA, we demonstrated that FDC+ structures invariably expressed AID with a distribution resembling secondary lymphoid organs. Further, AID+/CD21+ follicular structures were surrounded by ACPA+/CD138+ plasma cells, as demonstrated by immune reactivity to citrullinated fibrinogen. Moreover, we identified a novel subset of synovial AID+/CD20+ B cells outside GCs resembling interfollicular large B cells. In order to gain direct functional evidence that AID+ structures support CSR and in situ manufacturing of class-switched ACPA, 34 SCID mice were transplanted with RA synovium and humanely killed at 4 wk for harvesting of transplants and sera. Persistent expression of AID and Iγ-Cμ circular transcripts (identifying ongoing IgM-IgG class-switching) was observed in synovial grafts expressing FDCs/CD21L. Furthermore, synovial mRNA levels of AID were closely associated with circulating human IgG ACPA in mouse sera. Finally, the survival and proliferation of functional B cell niches was associated with persistent overexpression of genes regulating ectopic lymphoneogenesis.
Conclusions
Our demonstration that FDC+ follicular units invariably express AID and are surrounded by ACPA-producing plasma cells provides strong evidence that ectopic lymphoid structures in the RA synovium are functional and support autoantibody production. This concept is further confirmed by evidence of sustained AID expression, B cell proliferation, ongoing CSR, and production of human IgG ACPA from GC+ synovial tissue transplanted into SCID mice, independently of new B cell influx from the systemic circulation. These data identify AID as a potential therapeutic target in RA and suggest that survival of functional synovial B cell niches may profoundly influence chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, and response to B cell–depleting therapies.
Costantino Pitzalis and colleagues show that lymphoid structures in synovial tissue of patients with rheumatoid arthritis support production of anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies, which continues following transplantation into SCID mice.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More than 1 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis, an “autoimmune” condition that affects the joints. Normally, the immune system provides protection against infection by responding to foreign antigens (molecules that are unique to invading organisms) while ignoring self-antigens present in the body's own tissues. In autoimmune diseases, this ability to discriminate between self and non-self fails for unknown reasons and the immune system begins to attack human tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joints (the synovium) is attacked, it becomes inflamed and thickened, and chemicals are released that damage all the tissues in the joint. Eventually, the joint may become so scarred that movement is no longer possible. Rheumatoid arthritis usually starts in the small joints in the hands and feet, but larger joints and other tissues (including the heart and blood vessels) can be affected. Its symptoms, which tend to fluctuate, include early morning joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, and feeling generally unwell. Although the disease is not always easy to diagnose, the immune systems of many people with rheumatoid arthritis make “anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies” (ACPA). These “autoantibodies” (which some experts believe can contribute to the joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis) recognize self-proteins that contain the unusual amino acid citrulline, and their detection on blood tests can help make the diagnosis. Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the recently developed biologic drugs, often used together with the more traditional disease-modifying therapies, are able to halt its progression by specifically blocking the chemicals that cause joint damage. Painkillers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce its symptoms, and badly damaged joints can sometimes be surgically replaced.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before scientists can develop a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, they need to know how and why autoantibodies are made that attack the joints in this common and disabling disease. B cells, the immune system cells that make antibodies, mature in structures known as “germinal centers” in the spleen and lymph nodes. In the germinal centers, immature B cells are exposed to antigens and undergo two genetic processes called “somatic hypermutation” and “class-switch recombination” that ensure that each B cell makes an antibody that sticks as tightly as possible to just one antigen. The B cells then multiply and enter the bloodstream where they help to deal with infections. Interestingly, the inflamed synovium of many patients with rheumatoid arthritis contains structures that resemble germinal centers. Could these ectopic (misplaced) lymphoid structures, which are characterized by networks of immune system cells called follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), promote autoimmunity and long-term inflammation by driving the production of autoantibodies within the joint itself? In this study, the researchers investigate this possibility.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected synovial tissue from 55 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and used two approaches, called immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR, to investigate whether FDC-containing structures in synovium expressed an enzyme called activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), which is needed for both somatic hypermutation and class-switch recombination. All the FDC-containing structures that the researchers found in their samples expressed AID. Furthermore, these AID-containing structures were surrounded by mature B cells making ACPAs. To test whether these B cells were derived from AID-expressing cells resident in the synovium rather than ACPA-expressing immune system cells coming into the synovium from elsewhere in the body, the researchers transplanted synovium from patients with rheumatoid arthritis under the skin of a special sort of mouse that largely lacks its own immune system. Four weeks later, the researchers found that the transplanted human lymphoid tissue was still making AID, that the level of AID expression correlated with the amount of human ACPA in the blood of the mice, and that the B cells in the transplant were proliferating.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the ectopic lymphoid structures present in the synovium of some patients with rheumatoid arthritis are functional and are able to make ACPA. Because ACPA may be responsible for joint damage, the survival of these structures could, therefore, be involved in the development and progression of rheumatoid arthritis. More experiments are needed to confirm this idea, but these findings may explain why drugs that effectively clear B cells from the bloodstream do not always produce a marked clinical improvement in rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, they suggest that AID might provide a new target for the development of drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0060001.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Rene Toes and Tom Huizinga
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on rheumatoid arthritis (in English and Spanish). MedlinePlus provides links to other information on rheumatoid arthritis (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices information service has detailed information on rheumatoid arthritis
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides Fast Facts, an easy to read publication for the public, and a more detailed Handbook on rheumatoid arthritis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an overview on rheumatoid arthritis that includes statistics about this disease and its impact on daily life
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0060001
PMCID: PMC2621263  PMID: 19143467
5.  Acute-phase serum amyloid A production by rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):142-144.
Acute-phase serum amyloid A (A-SAA) is a major component of the acute-phase response. A sustained acute-phase response in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with increased joint damage. A-SAA mRNA expression was confirmed in all samples obtained from patients with RA, but not in normal synovium. A-SAA mRNA expression was also demonstrated in cultured RA synoviocytes. A-SAA protein was identified in the supernatants of primary synoviocyte cultures, and its expression colocalized with sites of macrophage accumulation and with some vascular endothelial cells. It is concluded that A-SAA is produced by inflamed RA synovial tissue. The known association between the acute-phase response and progressive joint damage may be the direct result of synovial A-SAA-induced effects on cartilage degradation.
Introduction:
Serum amyloid A (SAA) is the circulating precursor of amyloid A protein, the fibrillar component of amyloid deposits. In humans, four SAA genes have been described. Two genes (SAA1 and SAA2) encode A-SAA and are coordinately induced in response to inflammation. SAA1 and SAA2 are 95% homologous in both coding and noncoding regions. SAA3 is a pseudogene. SAA4 encodes constitutive SAA and is minimally inducible. A-SAA increases dramatically during acute inflammation and may reach levels that are 1000-fold greater than normal. A-SAA is mainly synthesized in the liver, but extrahepatic production has been demonstrated in many species, including humans. A-SAA mRNA is expressed in RA synoviocytes and in monocyte/macrophage cell lines such as THP-1 cells, in endothelial cells and in smooth muscle cells of atherosclerotic lesions. A-SAA has also been localized to a wide range of histologically normal tissues, including breast, stomach, intestine, pancreas, kidney, lung, tonsil, thyroid, pituitary, placenta, skin and brain.
Aims:
To identify the cell types that produce A-SAA mRNA and protein, and their location in RA synovium.
Materials and methods:
Rheumatoid synovial tissue was obtained from eight patients undergoing arthroscopic biopsy and at joint replacement surgery. Total RNA was analyzed by reverse transcription (RT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for A-SAA mRNA. PCR products generated were confirmed by Southern blot analysis using human A-SAA cDNA. Localization of A-SAA production was examined by immunohistochemistry using a rabbit antihuman A-SAA polyclonal antibody. PrimaryRA synoviocytes were cultured to examine endogenous A-SAA mRNA expression and protein production.
Results:
A-SAA mRNA expression was detected using RT-PCR in all eight synovial tissue samples studied. Figure 1 demonstrates RT-PCR products generated using synovial tissue from three representative RA patients. Analysis of RA synovial tissue revealed differences in A-SAA mRNA levels between individual RA patients.
In order to identify the cells that expressed A-SAA mRNA in RA synovial tissue, we analyzed primary human synoviocytes (n = 2). RT-PCR analysis revealed A-SAA mRNA expression in primary RA synoviocytes (n = 2; Fig. 2). The endogenous A-SAA mRNA levels detected in individual primary RA synoviocytes varied between patients. These findings are consistent with A-SAA expression in RA synovial tissue (Fig. 1). Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) levels were relatively similar in the RA synoviocytes examined (Fig. 2). A-SAA protein in the supernatants of primary synoviocyte cultures from four RA patients was measured using ELISA. Mean values of a control and four RA samples were 77.85, 162.5, 249.8, 321.5 and 339.04 μg/l A-SAA, respectively, confirming the production of A-SAA protein by the primary RA synoviocytes. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed to localize sites of A-SAA production in RA synovial tissue. Positive staining was present in both the lining and sublining layers of all eight RA tissues examined (Fig. 3a). Staining was intense and most prominent in the cells closest to the surface of the synovial lining layer. Positively stained cells were evident in the perivascular areas of the sublining layer. In serial sections stained with anti-CD68 monoclonal antibody, positive staining of macrophages appeared to colocalize with A-SAA-positive cells (Fig. 3b). Immunohistochemical studies of cultured primary RA synoviocytes confirmed specific cytoplasmic A-SAA expression in these cells. The specificity of the staining was confirmed by the absence of staining found on serial sections and synoviocyte cells treated with IgG (Fig. 3c).
Discussion:
This study demonstrates that A-SAA mRNA is expressed in several cell populations infiltrating RA synovial tissue. A-SAA mRNA expression was observed in all eight unseparated RA tissue samples studied. A-SAA mRNA expression and protein production was demonstrated in primary cultures of purified RA synoviocytes. Using immunohistochemical techniques, A-SAA protein appeared to colocalize with both lining layer and sublining layer synoviocytes, macrophages and some endothelial cells. The detection of A-SAA protein in culture media supernatants harvested from unstimulated synoviocytes confirms endogenous A-SAA production, and is consistent with A-SAA mRNA expression and translation by the same cells. Moreover, the demonstration of A-SAA protein in RA synovial tissue, RA cultured synoviocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells is consistent with previous studies that demonstrated A-SAA production by a variety of human cell populations.
The RA synovial lining layer is composed of activated macrophages and fibroblast-like synoviocytes. The macrophage is the predominant cell type and it has been shown to accumulate preferentially in the surface of the lining layer and in the perivascular areas of the sublining layer. Nevertheless, our observations strongly suggest that A-SAA is produced not only by synoviocytes, but also by synovial tissue macrophage populations. Local A-SAA protein production by vascular endothelial cells was detected in some, but not all, of the tissues examined. The reason for the variability in vascular A-SAA staining is unknown, but may be due to differences in endothelial cell activation, events related to angiogenesis or the intensity of local inflammation.
The value of measuring serum A-SAA levels as a reliable surrogate marker of inflammation has been demonstrated for several diseases including RA, juvenile chronic arthritis, psoriatic arthropathy, ankylosing spondylitis, Behçet's disease, reactive arthritis and Crohn's disease. It has been suggested that serum A-SAA levels may represent the most sensitive measurement of the acute-phase reaction. In RA, A-SAA levels provide the strongest correlations with clinical measurements of disease activity, and changes in serum levels best reflect the clinical course.
A number of biologic activities have been described for A-SAA, including several that are relevant to the understanding of inflammatory and tissue-degrading mechanisms in human arthritis. A-SAA induces migration, adhesion and tissue infiltration of circulating monocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes. In addition, human A-SAA can induce interleukin-1β, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and soluble type II tumour necrosis factor receptor production by a monocyte cell line. Moreover, A-SAA can stimulate the production of cartilage-degrading proteases by both human and rabbit synoviocytes. The effects of A-SAA on protease production are interesting, because in RA a sustained acute-phase reaction has been strongly associated with progressive joint damage. The known association between the acute-phase response and progressive joint damage may be the direct result of synovial A-SAA-induced effects on cartilage degradation.
Conclusion:
In contrast to noninflamed synovium, A-SAA mRNA expression was identified in all RA tissues examined. A-SAA appeared to be produced by synovial tissue synoviocytes, macrophages and endothelial cells. The observation of A-SAA mRNA expression in cultured RA synoviocytes and human RA synovial tissue confirms and extends recently published findings that demonstrated A-SAA mRNA expression in stimulated RA synoviocytes, but not in unstimulated RA synoviocytes.
PMCID: PMC17807  PMID: 11062604
acute-phase response; rheumatoid arthritis; serum amyloid A; synovial tissue
6.  Inhibition of T cell apoptosis in the rheumatoid synovium. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1997;99(3):439-446.
Synovial T cells in rheumatoid arthritis are highly differentiated and express a phenotype suggesting susceptibility to apoptosis (CD45RB dull, CD45RO bright, Bcl-2 low, Bax high, Fas high). However, no evidence of T cell apoptosis was found in synovial fluid from any of 28 patients studied. In contrast, synovial fluid from 10 patients with crystal arthritis showed substantial levels of T cell apoptosis. The failre of apoptosis was not an intrinsic property of rheumatoid synovial T cells, as they showed rapid spontaneous apoptosis on removal from the joint. Synovial T cells from rheumatoid arthritis and gout patients could be rescued from spontaneous apoptosis in vitro either by IL-2R gamma chain signaling cytokines (which upregulate Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL) or by interaction with synovial fibroblasts (which upregulates Bcl-xL but not Bcl-2). The phenotype of rheumatoid synovial T cells ex vivo (Bcl-2 low, Bcl-xL high) suggested a fibroblast-mediated mechanism in vivo. This was confirmed by in vitro culture of synovial T cells with fibroblasts which maintained the Bcl-xL high Bcl-2 low phenotype. Synovial T cells from gout patients were Bcl-2 low Bcl-xL low and showed clear evidence of apoptosis in vivo. Inhibition experiments suggested that an integrin-ligand interaction incorporating the Arg-Gly-Asp motif is involved in fibroblast-mediated synovial T cell survival. We propose that environmental blockade of cell death resulting from interaction with stromal cells is a major factor in the persistent T cell infiltration of chronically inflamed rheumatoid synovium.
PMCID: PMC507817  PMID: 9022077
7.  Synovial biology and T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Events that occur in rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissues are responsible for the signs and symptoms of joint inflammation and for the eventual destruction of articular and periarticular structures that lead to joint dysfunction and disability. The three most abundant cell populations in RA synovium are synovial macrophages (type A synoviocytes), synovial fibroblasts (type B synoviocytes) and infiltrating T lymphocytes. Other important cell populations include B lymphocytes, dendritic cells, plasma cells, mast cells and osteoclasts. Our current understanding of rheumatoid arthritis is moving beyond previous concepts that view this disease as the consequence of a specific and focused humoral or cellular autoimmune response to a single autoantigen. Rather, a new view of rheumatoid arthritis is emerging, which seeks to understand this disease as the product of pathologic cell–cell interactions occurring within a unique and defined environment, the synovium. T lymphocytes in rheumatoid arthritis synovium interact closely with dendritic cells, the most potent antigen-presenting cell population in the immune system. T cells also interact with monocytes and macrophages and cytokine-activated T cells may be, especially, suited to trigger production of the important cytokine TNFα by synovial macrophages. Recent evidence also suggests a potent bidirectional interaction between synovial T cells and synovial fibroblasts, which can lead to activation of both cell types. An important role for synovial B lymphocytes has been emphasized recently, both by experimental data and by results of clinical interventions. B cells in synovium can interact with fibroblasts as well as with other cells of the immune system and their potential role as antigen-presenting cells in the joint is as yet underexplored. Rheumatoid arthritis synovium may be one of the most striking examples of pathologic, organ-specific interactions between immune system cells and resident tissue cell populations. This view of rheumatoid arthritis also leads to the prediction that novel approaches to treatment will more logically target the intercellular communication systems that maintain such interactions, rather than attempt to ablate a single cell population.
doi:10.1016/j.pathophys.2005.07.005
PMCID: PMC3533491  PMID: 16112560
T cells; B cells; Fibroblasts; Dendritic cells; Monocytes
8.  Focal adhesion kinase is required for synovial fibroblast invasion, but not murine inflammatory arthritis 
Introduction
Synovial fibroblasts invade cartilage and bone, leading to joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. However, the mechanisms that regulate synovial fibroblast invasion are not well understood. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) has been implicated in cellular invasion in several cell types, and FAK inhibitors are in clinical trials for cancer treatment. Little is known about the role of FAK in inflammatory arthritis, but, given its expression in synovial tissue, its known role in invasion in other cells and the potential clinical availability of FAK inhibitors, it is important to determine if FAK contributes to synovial fibroblast invasion and inflammatory arthritis.
Methods
After treatment with FAK inhibitors, invasiveness of human rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts was determined with Matrigel invasion chambers. Migration and focal matrix degradation, two components of cellular invasion, were assessed in FAK-inhibited rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts by transwell assay and microscopic examination of fluorescent gelatin degradation, respectively. Using mice with tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα)–induced arthritis in which fak could be inducibly deleted, invasion and migration by FAK-deficient murine arthritic synovial fibroblasts were determined as described above and arthritis was clinically and pathologically scored in FAK-deficient mice.
Results
Inhibition of FAK in human rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts impaired cellular invasion and migration. Focal matrix degradation occurred both centrally and at focal adhesions, the latter being a novel site for matrix degradation in synovial fibroblasts, but degradation was unaltered with FAK inhibitors. Loss of FAK reduced invasion in murine arthritic synovial fibroblasts, but not migration or TNFα-induced arthritis severity and joint erosions.
Conclusions
FAK inhibitors reduce synovial fibroblast invasion and migration, but synovial fibroblast migration and TNFα-induced arthritis do not rely on FAK itself. Thus, inhibition of FAK alone is unlikely to be sufficient to treat inflammatory arthritis, but current drugs that inhibit FAK may inhibit multiple factors, which could increase their efficacy in rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1186/s13075-014-0464-6
PMCID: PMC4203874  PMID: 25280866
9.  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.
Introduction:
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.
Aims:
To identify specifically expressed genes using RNA arbitrarily primed (RAP)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for differential display in patients with RA.
Methods:
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).
Results:
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.
Discussion:
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
10.  The epigenome of synovial fibroblasts: an underestimated therapeutic target in rheumatoid arthritis 
Perturbed epigenetic landscape and deregulated microRNA networks are central to the permanent activation and aggressiveness of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis. Current anti-cytokine therapies, although effectively halting synovitis, cannot reverse the stably activated destructive phenotype of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts, offering rather limited protection against ongoing joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. Targeting the deregulated epigenome of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts is key to developing joint-protective strategies in rheumatoid arthritis. To date, different pathogenic mechanisms have been identified that can profoundly impact the epigenetic derangements in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts, including increased consumption of S-adenosylmethionine, a principal methyl donor in DNA methylation reactions, together with deregulation of crucial DNA- and histone-modifying enzymes. Re-establishing globally disturbed DNA methylation patterns in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts by supplementing S-adenosylmethionine while preventing its leakage into polyamine cycles may be a promising therapeutic strategy in rheumatoid arthritis and the first epigenetic treatment to target rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts at the scene of the crime. Given the dynamic nature and reversibility of epigenetic modifications, their involvement in human diseases and recent perspectives on epigenetic therapies in cancer, epigenetic targeting of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts should be within future reach.
doi:10.1186/ar4596
PMCID: PMC4075141  PMID: 25165988
11.  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.
Aims:
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.
Methods:
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.
Results:
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).
Discussion:
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
12.  Actin cytoskeleton dynamics linked to synovial fibroblast activation as a novel pathogenic principle in TNF‐driven arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(Suppl 3):iii23-iii28.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder whose origin of defect has been the subject of extensive research during the past few decades. While a number of immune and non‐immune cell types participate in the development of chronic destructive inflammation in the arthritic joint, synovial fibroblasts have emerged as key effector cells capable of modulating both joint destruction and propagation of inflammation. Ample evidence of aberrant changes in the morphology and biochemical behaviour of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts have established the tissue evading and “transformed” character of this cell type. We have recently demonstrated that actin cytoskeletal rearrangements determine the pathogenic activation of synovial fibroblasts in modelled TNF‐mediated arthritis, a finding correlating with similar gene expression changes which we observed in human rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts. Here, we show that pharmacological inhibition of actin cytoskeleton dynamics alters potential pathogenic properties of the arthritogenic synovial fibroblast, such as proliferation, migration and resistance to apoptosis, indicating novel opportunities for therapeutic intervention in arthritis. Recent advances in this field of research are reviewed and discussed.
doi:10.1136/ard.2007.079822
PMCID: PMC2095291  PMID: 17934089
13.  Galectin 3 Induces a Distinctive Pattern of Cytokine and Chemokine Production in Rheumatoid Synovial Fibroblasts via Selective Signaling Pathways 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(6):1604-1614.
Objective
High expression of galectin 3 at sites of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) suggests that galectin 3 plays a role in RA pathogenesis. Previous studies have demonstrated the effects of galectins on immune cells, such as lymphocytes and macrophages. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that galectin 3 induces proinflammatory effects in RA by modulating the pattern of cytokine and chemokine production in synovial fibroblasts.
Methods
Matched samples of RA synovial and skin fibroblasts were pretreated with galectin 3 or tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), and the levels of a panel of cytokines, chemokines, and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) were determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and multiplex assays. Specific inhibitors were used to dissect signaling pathways, which were confirmed by Western blotting and NF-κB activation assay.
Results
Galectin 3 induced secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6), granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor, CXCL8, and MMP-3 in both synovial and skin fibroblasts. By contrast, galectin 3–induced secretion of TNFα, CCL2, CCL3, and CCL5 was significantly greater in synovial fibroblasts than in skin fibroblasts. TNFα blockade ruled out autocrine TNFα-stimulated induction of chemokines. The MAPKs p38, JNK, and ERK were necessary for IL-6 production, but phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) was required for selective CCL5 induction. NF-κB activation was required for production of both IL-6 and CCL5.
Conclusion
Our findings indicate that galectin 3 promotes proinflammatory cytokine secretion by tissue fibroblasts. However, galectin 3 induces the production of mononuclear cell–recruiting chemokines uniquely from synovial fibroblasts, but not matched skin fibroblasts, via a PI 3-kinase signaling pathway. These data provide further evidence of the role of synovial fibroblasts in regulating the pattern and persistence of the inflammatory infiltrate in RA and suggest a new and important functional consequence of the observed high expression of galectin 3 in the rheumatoid synovium.
doi:10.1002/art.24574
PMCID: PMC3116228  PMID: 19479862
14.  The identification and characterization of a novel protein, c19orf10, in the synovium 
Joint inflammation and destruction have been linked to the deregulation of the highly synthetic fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs), and much of our current understanding of the mechanisms that underlie synovitis has been collected from studies of FLSs. During a proteomic analysis of FLS cells, we identified a novel protein, c19orf10 (chromosome 19 open reading frame 10), that was produced in significant amounts by these cells. The present study provides a partial characterization of c19orf10 in FLSs, synovial fluid, and the synovium. Murine monoclonal and chicken polyclonal antibodies were produced against recombinant human c19orf10 protein and used to examine the distribution of c19orf10 in cultured FLSs and in synovial tissue sections from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. The intracellular staining pattern of c19orf10 is consistent with localization in the endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi distribution. Sections of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis synovia expressed similar patterns of c19orf10 distribution with perivascular and synovial lining staining. Double-staining in situ analysis suggests that fibroblast-like synovial cells produced c19orf10, whereas macrophages, B cells, or T cells produced little or none of this protein. There is evidence of secretion into the vascular space and the extracellular matrix surrounding the synovial lining. A competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay confirmed the presence of microgram levels of c19orf10 in the synovial fluids of patients with one of various arthropathies. Collectively, these results suggest that c19orf10 is an FLS-derived protein that is secreted into the synovial fluid. However, the significance of this protein in synovial biology remains to be determined. The absence of known structural motifs or domains and its relatively late evolutionary appearance raise interesting questions about its function.
doi:10.1186/ar2145
PMCID: PMC1906808  PMID: 17362502
15.  Active synovial matrix metalloproteinase-2 is associated with radiographic erosions in patients with early synovitis 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(2):145-153.
Serum and synovial tissue expression of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 and their molecular regulators, MMP-14 and TIMP-2 was examined in 28 patients with inflammatory early synovitis and 4 healthy volunteers and correlated with the presence of erosions in the patients. Immunohistological staining of MMP-2, MMP-14 and TIMP-2 localized to corresponding areas in the synovial lining layer and was almost absent in normal synovium. Patients with radiographic erosions had significantly higher levels of active MMP-2 than patients with no erosions, suggesting that activated MMP-2 levels in synovial tissue may be a marker for a more aggressive synovial lesion.
Introduction:
In cancer the gelatinases [matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9] have been shown to be associated with tissue invasion and metastatic disease. In patients with inflammatory arthritis the gelatinases are expressed in the synovial membrane, and have been implicated in synovial tissue invasion into adjacent cartilage and bone. It is hypothesized that an imbalance between the activators and inhibitors of the gelatinases results in higher levels of activity, enhanced local proteolysis, and bone erosion.
Objectives:
To determine whether the expression and activity levels of MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their regulators MMP-14 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP), are associated with early erosion formation in patients with synovitis of recent onset.
Patients and method:
A subset of 66 patients was selected from a larger early synovitis cohort on the basis of tissue availability for the study of synovial tissue and serum gelatinase expression. Patients with peripheral joint synovitis of less than 1 years' duration were evaluated clinically and serologically on four visits over a period of 12 months. At the initial visit, patients underwent a synovial tissue biopsy of one swollen joint, and patients had radiographic evaluation of hands and feet initially and at 1year. Serum MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-9, MMP-14, and TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 levels were determined, and synovial tissue was examined by immunohistology for the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, and their molecular regulators. Gelatinolytic activity for MMP-2 and MMP-9 was quantified using a sensitive, tissue-based gel zymography technique. Four healthy individuals underwent closed synovial biopsy and their synovial tissues were similarly analyzed.
Results:
Of the 66 patients studied, 45 fulfilled American College of Rheumatology criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with 32 (71%) being rheumatoid factor positive. Of the 21 non-RA patients, seven had a spondylarthropathy and 14 had undifferentiated arthritis. Radiographically, 12 of the RA patients had erosions at multiple sites by 1 year, whereas none of the non-RA patients had developed erosive disease of this extent. In the tissue, latent MMP-2 was widely expressed in the synovial lining layer and in areas of stromal proliferation in the sublining layer and stroma, whereas MMP-9 was expressed more sparsely and focally. MMP-14, TIMP-2, and MMP-2 were all detected in similar areas of the lining layer on consecutive histologic sections. Tissue expression of MMP-14, the activator for pro-MMP-2, was significantly higher in RA than in non-RA patients (8.4 ± 5 versus 3.7 ± 4 cells/high-power field; P = 0.009). In contrast, the expression of TIMP-2, an inhibitor of MMP-2, was lower in the RA than in the non-RA samples (25 ± 12 versus 39 ± 9 cells/high-power field; P = 0.01). Synovial tissue expressions of MMP-2, MMP-14, and TIMP-2 were virtually undetectable in normal synovial tissue samples. The synovial tissue samples of patients with erosive disease had significantly higher levels of active MMP-2 than did those of patients without erosions (Fig. 1). Tissue expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, however, did not correlate with the serum levels of these enzymes.
With the exception of serum MMP-2, which was not elevated over normal, serum levels of all of the other MMPs and TIMPs were elevated to varying degrees, and were not predictive of erosive disease. Interestingly, MMP-1 and C-reactive protein, both of which were associated with the presence of erosions, were positively correlated with each other (r = 0.42; P < 0.001).
Discussion:
MMP-2 and MMP-9 are thought to play an important role in the evolution of joint erosions in patients with an inflammatory arthritis. Most studies have concentrated on the contribution of MMP-9 to the synovitis, because synovial fluid and serum MMP-9 levels are markedly increased in inflammatory arthropathies. Previously reported serum levels of MMP-9 have varied widely. In the present sample of patients with synovitis of recent onset, serum MMP-9 levels were elevated in only 21%. Moreover, these elevations were not specific for RA, the tissue expression of MMP-9 was focal, and the levels of MMP-9 activity were not well correlated with early erosions. Although serum MMP-2 levels were not of prognostic value, high synovial tissue levels of MMP-2 activity were significantly correlated with the presence of early erosions. This may reflect augmented activation of MMP-2 by the relatively high levels of MMP-14 and low levels of TIMP-2 seen in these tissues. We were able to localize the components of this trimolecular complex to the synovial lining layer in consecutive tissue sections, a finding that is consistent with their colocalization.
In conclusion, we have provided evidence that active MMP-2 complexes are detectable in the inflamed RA synovium and may be involved in the development of early bony erosions. These results suggest that strategies to inhibit the activation of MMP-2 may have the potential for retarding or preventing early erosions in patients with inflammatory arthritis.
PMCID: PMC17808  PMID: 11062605
early synovitis; erosion; metalloproteinase; matrix metalloproteinase-2; rheumatoid arthritis
16.  Gene expression and activity of cartilage degrading glycosidases in human rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts 
Introduction
Similar to matrix metalloproteinases, glycosidases also play a major role in cartilage degradation. Carbohydrate cleavage products, generated by these latter enzymes, are released from degrading cartilage during arthritis. Some of the cleavage products (such as hyaluronate oligosaccharides) have been shown to bind to Toll-like receptors and provide endogenous danger signals, while others (like N-acetyl glucosamine) are reported to have chondroprotective functions. In the current study for the first time we systematically investigated the expression of glycosidases within the joints.
Methods
Expressions of β-D-hexosaminidase, β-D-glucuronidase, hyaluronidase, sperm adhesion molecule 1 and klotho genes were measured in synovial fibroblasts and synovial membrane samples of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis by real-time PCR. β-D-Glucuronidase, β-D-glucosaminidase and β-D-galactosaminidase activities were characterized using chromogenic or fluorogenic substrates. Synovial fibroblast-derived microvesicles were also tested for glycosidase activity.
Results
According to our data, β-D-hexosaminidase, β-D-glucuronidase, hyaluronidase, and klotho are expressed in the synovial membrane. Hexosaminidase is the major glycosidase expressed within the joints, and it is primarily produced by synovial fibroblasts. HexA subunit gene, one of the two genes encoding for the alpha or the beta chains of hexosaminidase, was characterized by the strongest gene expression. It was followed by the expression of HexB subunit gene and the β-D-glucuronidase gene, while the expression of hyaluronidase-1 gene and the klotho gene was rather low in both synovial fibroblasts and synovial membrane samples. Tumor growth factor-β1 profoundly downregulated glycosidase expression in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis derived synovial fibroblasts. In addition, expression of cartilage-degrading glycosidases was moderately downregulated by proinflammatory cytokines including TNFα, IL-1β and IL-17.
Conclusions
According to our present data, glycosidases expressed by synovial membranes and synovial fibroblasts are under negative regulation by some locally expressed cytokines both in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. This does not exclude the possibility that these enzymes may contribute significantly to cartilage degradation in both joint diseases if acting in collaboration with the differentially upregulated proteases to deplete cartilage in glycosaminoglycans.
doi:10.1186/ar2697
PMCID: PMC2714114  PMID: 19442276
17.  Prolonged, granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor-dependent, neutrophil survival following rheumatoid synovial fibroblast activation by IL-17 and TNFalpha 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/ar2406
PMCID: PMC2453767  PMID: 18433499
18.  TNFα modulates protein degradation pathways in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts 
Introduction
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory and destructive disease of the joint. The synovial lining consists of two main types of cells: synovial fibroblasts and macrophages. The macrophage-derived cytokine TNFα stimulates RA synovial fibroblasts to proliferate and produce growth factors, chemokines, proteinases and adhesion molecules, making them key players in the RA disease process. If proteins are not correctly folded, cellular stress occurs that can be relieved in part by increased degradation of the aberrant proteins by the proteasome or autophagy. We hypothesized that the activity of the protein degradation pathways would be increased in response to TNFα stimulation in RA synovial fibroblasts compared with control fibroblasts.
Methods
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress markers were examined in synovial fibroblasts by immunoblotting and PCR. Use of the autophagy and proteasome protein degradation pathways in response to TNFα stimulation was determined using a combination of experiments involving chemical inhibition of the autophagy or proteasome pathways followed by immunoblotting for the autophagy marker LC3, measurement of proteasome activity and long-lived protein degradation, and determination of cellular viability.
Results
RA synovial fibroblasts are under acute ER stress, and the stress is increased in the presence of TNFα. Autophagy is the main pathway used to relieve the ER stress in unstimulated fibroblasts, and both autophagy and the proteasome are more active in RA synovial fibroblasts compared with control fibroblasts. In response to TNFα, the autophagy pathway but not the proteasome is consistently stimulated, yet there is an increased dependence on the proteasome for cell viability. If autophagy is blocked in the presence of TNFα, an increase in proteasome activity occurs in RA synovial fibroblasts but not in control cells.
Conclusions
TNFα stimulation of synovial fibroblasts results in increased expression of ER stress markers. Survival of synovial fibroblasts is dependent on continuous removal of proteins by both the lysosome/autophagy and ubiquitin/proteasome protein degradation pathways. Both pathways are more active in RA synovial fibroblasts compared with control fibroblasts. These results may provide a better understanding of the mechanism of TNFα on prolonging the survival of synovial fibroblasts in RA tissue.
doi:10.1186/ar3778
PMCID: PMC3446430  PMID: 22417670
19.  In vitro model for the analysis of synovial fibroblast-mediated degradation of intact cartilage 
Introduction
Activated synovial fibroblasts are thought to play a major role in the destruction of cartilage in chronic, inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, profound insight into the pathogenic mechanisms and the impact of synovial fibroblasts in the initial early stages of cartilage destruction is limited. Hence, the present study sought to establish a standardised in vitro model for early cartilage destruction with native, intact cartilage in order to analyse the matrix-degrading capacity of synovial fibroblasts and their influence on cartilage metabolism.
Methods
A standardised model was established by co-culturing bovine cartilage discs with early-passage human synovial fibroblasts for 14 days under continuous stimulation with TNF-α, IL-1β or a combination of TNF-α/IL-1β. To assess cartilage destruction, the co-cultures were analysed by histology, immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy and laser scanning microscopy. In addition, content and/or neosynthesis of the matrix molecules cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and collagen II was quantified. Finally, gene and protein expression of matrix-degrading enzymes and pro-inflammatory cytokines were profiled in both synovial fibroblasts and cartilage.
Results
Histological and immunohistological analyses revealed that non-stimulated synovial fibroblasts are capable of demasking/degrading cartilage matrix components (proteoglycans, COMP, collagen) and stimulated synovial fibroblasts clearly augment chondrocyte-mediated, cytokine-induced cartilage destruction. Cytokine stimulation led to an upregulation of tissue-degrading enzymes (aggrecanases I/II, matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP) 1, MMP-3) and pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and IL-8) in both cartilage and synovial fibroblasts. In general, the activity of tissue-degrading enzymes was consistently higher in co-cultures with synovial fibroblasts than in cartilage monocultures. In addition, stimulated synovial fibroblasts suppressed the synthesis of collagen type II mRNA in cartilage.
Conclusions
The results demonstrate for the first time the capacity of synovial fibroblasts to degrade intact cartilage matrix by disturbing the homeostasis of cartilage via the production of catabolic enzymes/pro-inflammatory cytokines and suppression of anabolic matrix synthesis (i.e., collagen type II). This new in vitro model may closely reflect the complex process of early stage in vivo destruction in RA and help to elucidate the role of synovial fibroblasts and other synovial cells in this process, and the molecular mechanisms involved in cartilage degradation.
doi:10.1186/ar2618
PMCID: PMC2688258  PMID: 19226472
20.  Cells of the synovium in rheumatoid arthritis. Synovial fibroblasts 
For some time synovial fibroblasts have been regarded simply as innocent synovial cells, mainly responsible for synovial homeostasis. During the past decade, however, a body of evidence has accumulated illustrating that rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) are active drivers of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. Details regarding the intracellular signalling cascades that result in long-term activation and synthesis of proinflammatory molecules and matrix-degrading enzymes by RASFs have been analyzed. Molecular, cellular and animal studies have identified various interactions with other synovial and inflammatory cells. This expanded knowledge of the distinct role played by RASFs in the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis has moved these fascinating cells to the fore, and work to identify targeted therapies to inhibit their joint destructive potential is underway.
doi:10.1186/ar2337
PMCID: PMC2246247  PMID: 18177509
21.  Epithelial neutrophil activating peptide-78: a novel chemotactic cytokine for neutrophils in arthritis. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1994;94(3):1012-1018.
We and others have shown that cells obtained from inflamed joints of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients produce interleukin-8, a potent chemotactic cytokine for neutrophils (PMNs). However, IL-8 accounted for only 40% of the chemotactic activity for PMNs found in these synovial fluids. Currently, we have examined the production of the novel PMN chemotactic cytokine, epithelial neutrophil activating peptide-78 (ENA-78), using peripheral blood, synovial fluid, and synovial tissue from 70 arthritic patients. RA ENA-78 levels were greater in RA synovial fluid (239 +/- 63 ng/ml) compared with synovial fluid from other forms of arthritis (130 +/- 118 ng/ml) or osteoarthritis (2.6 +/- 1.8 ng/ml) (P < 0.05). RA peripheral blood ENA-78 levels (70 +/- 26 ng/ml) were greater than normal peripheral blood levels (0.12 +/- 0.04 ng/ml) (P < 0.05). Anti-ENA-78 antibodies neutralized 42 +/- 9% (mean +/- SE) of the chemotactic activity for PMNs found in RA synovial fluids. Isolated RA synovial tissue fibroblasts in vitro constitutively produced significant levels of ENA-78, and this production was further augmented when stimulated with tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). In addition RA and osteoarthritis synovial tissue fibroblasts as well as RA synovial tissue macrophages were found to constitutively produce ENA-78. RA synovial fluid mononuclear cells spontaneously produced ENA-78, which was augmented in the presence of lipopolysaccharide. Immunohistochemical localization of ENA-78 from the synovial tissue of patients with arthritis or normal subjects showed that the predominant cellular source of this chemokine was synovial lining cells, followed by macrophages, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts. Synovial tissue macrophages and fibroblasts were more ENA-78 immunopositive in RA than in normal synovial tissue (P < 0.05). These results, which are the first demonstration of ENA-78 in a human disease state, suggest that ENA-78 may play an important role in the recruitment of PMNs in the milieu of the inflamed joint of RA patients.
Images
PMCID: PMC295150  PMID: 8083342
22.  S100A4 is expressed at site of invasion in rheumatoid arthritis synovium and modulates production of matrix metalloproteinases 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;65(12):1645-1648.
The metastasis‐associated protein S100A4 promotes the progression of cancer by regulating the remodelling of the extracellular matrix. The expression of S100A4 in vivo is shown and the functional role of S100A4 in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritisis is explored. The expression of S100A4 in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and normal synovial tissues was determined by immunohistochemistry. The expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) mRNA was measured in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts treated and untreated with S100A4 oligomer by real‐time polymerase chain reaction. Levels of released MMPs were confirmed by ELISA in cell culture supernatants. S100A4 protein was expressed in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis synovial tissues, in contrast with normal synovium. S100A4 up regulated MMP‐3 mRNA in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fluid, with a peak after 6 h. This resulted in release of MMP‐3 protein. MMP‐1, MMP‐9 and MMP‐13 mRNA were also up regulated in synovial fluid, but with different kinetics. MMP‐14 mRNA showed no change. Thus, S100A4 protein is expressed in synovial tissues of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in contrast with healthy people. It induces the expression and release of MMP‐3 and other MMPs from synovial fluid. The data suggest that S100A4‐producing cells could be involved in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, including pannus formation and joint destruction.
doi:10.1136/ard.2005.047704
PMCID: PMC1798462  PMID: 17105852
23.  Upregulated miR-146a expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2008;10(4):R101.
Introduction
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNA molecules that negatively regulate gene expression via degradation or translational repression of their targeted mRNAs. It is known that aberrant microRNA expression can play important roles in cancer, but the role of microRNAs in autoimmune diseases is only beginning to emerge. In this study, the expression of selected microRNAs is examined in rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods
Total RNA was isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and healthy and disease control individuals, and the expression of miR-146a, miR-155, miR-132, miR-16, and microRNA let-7a was analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR.
Results
Rheumatoid arthritis peripheral blood mononuclear cells exhibited between 1.8-fold and 2.6-fold increases in miR-146a, miR-155, miR-132, and miR-16 expression, whereas let-7a expression was not significantly different compared with healthy control individuals. In addition, two targets of miR-146a, namely tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) and IL-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK-1), were similarly expressed between rheumatoid arthritis patients and control individuals, despite increased expression of miR-146a in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Repression of TRAF6 and/or IRAK-1 in THP-1 cells resulted in up to an 86% reduction in tumor necrosis factor-α production, implicating that normal miR-146a function is critical for the regulation of tumor necrosis factor-α production.
Conclusions
Recent studies have shown that synovial tissue and synovial fibroblasts from patients with rheumatoid arthritis exhibit increased expression of certain microRNAs. Our data thus demonstrate that microRNA expression in rheumatoid arthritis peripheral blood mononuclear cells mimics that of synovial tissue/fibroblasts. The increased microRNA expression in rheumatoid arthritis patients is potentially useful as a marker for disease diagnosis, progression, or treatment efficacy, but this will require confirmation using a large and well defined cohort. Our data also suggest a possible mechanism contributing to rheumatoid arthritis pathogenesis, whereby miR-146a expression is increased but unable to properly function, leading to prolonged tumor necrosis factor-α production in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
doi:10.1186/ar2493
PMCID: PMC2575615  PMID: 18759964
24.  Plasma and synovial fluid microRNAs as potential biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis 
Introduction
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), endogenous small noncoding RNAs regulating the activities of target mRNAs and cellular processes, are present in human plasma in a stable form. In this study, we investigated whether miRNAs are also stably present in synovial fluids and whether plasma and synovial fluid miRNAs could be biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods
We measured concentrations of miR-16, miR-132, miR-146a, miR-155 and miR-223 in synovial fluid from patients with RA and OA, and those in plasma from RA, OA and healthy controls (HCs) by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Furthermore, miRNAs in the conditioned medium of synovial tissues, monolayer fibroblast-like synoviocytes, and mononuclear cells were examined. Correlations between miRNAs and biomarkers or disease activities of RA were statistically examined.
Results
Synovial fluid miRNAs were present and as stable as plasma miRNAs for storage at -20°C and freeze-thawing from -20°C to 4°C. In RA and OA, synovial fluid concentrations of miR-16, miR-132, miR-146a, and miR-223 were significantly lower than their plasma concentrations, and there were no correlation between plasma and synovial fluid miRNAs. Interestingly, synovial tissues, fibroblast-like synoviocytes, and mononuclear cells secreted miRNAs in distinct patterns. The expression patterns of miRNAs in synovial fluid of OA were similar to miRNAs secreted by synovial tissues. Synovial fluid miRNAs of RA were likely to originate from synovial tissues and infiltrating cells. Plasma miR-132 of HC was significantly higher than that of RA or OA with high diagnosability. Synovial fluid concentrations of miR-16, miR-146a miR-155 and miR-223 of RA were significantly higher than those of OA. Plasma miRNAs or ratio of synovial fluid miRNAs to plasma miRNAs, including miR-16 and miR-146a, significantly correlated with tender joint counts and 28-joint Disease Activity Score.
Conclusions
Plasma miRNAs had distinct patterns from synovial fluid miRNAs, which appeared to originate from synovial tissue. Plasma miR-132 well differentiated HCs from patients with RA or OA, while synovial fluid miRNAs differentiated RA and OA. Furthermore, plasma miRNAs correlated with the disease activities of RA. Thus, synovial fluid and plasma miRNAs have potential as diagnostic biomarkers for RA and OA and as a tool for the analysis of their pathogenesis.
doi:10.1186/ar3013
PMCID: PMC2911870  PMID: 20470394
25.  Down-Regulation of Myeloid Cell Leukemia 1 by Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Sensitizes Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts to Tumor Necrosis Factor α–Induced Apoptosis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(5):1282-1293.
Objective
Overexpression of the antiapoptotic protein myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl-1) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial fibroblasts is a major cause of their resistance to tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα)–induced apoptosis. This study was undertaken to evaluate the efficacy of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in down-regulating Mcl-1 expression and its mechanism of RA synovial fibroblast sensitization to TNFα-induced apoptosis.
Methods
EGCG effects on cultured RA synovial fibroblast cell morphology, proliferation, and viability over 72 hours were determined by microscopy and a fluorescent cell enumeration assay. Caspase 3 activity was determined by a colorimetric assay. Western blotting was used to evaluate the apoptosis mediators poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), Mcl-1, Bcl-2, Akt, and nuclear translocation of NF-κB.
Results
In RA synovial fibroblasts, EGCG (5–50 μM) inhibited constitutive and TNFα-induced Mcl-1 protein expression in a concentration- and time-dependent manner (P < 0.05). Importantly, EGCG specifically abrogated Mcl-1 expression in RA synovial fibroblasts and affected Mcl-1 expression to a lesser extent in osteoarthritis and normal synovial fibroblasts or endothelial cells. Inhibition of Mcl-1 by EGCG triggered caspase 3 activity in RA synovial fibroblasts, which was mediated via down-regulation of the TNFα-induced Akt and NF-κB pathways. Caspase 3 activation by EGCG also suppressed RA synovial fibroblast growth, and this effect was mimicked by Akt and NF-κB inhibitors. Interestingly, Mcl-1 degradation by EGCG sensitized RA synovial fibroblasts to TNFα-induced PARP cleavage and apoptotic cell death.
Conclusion
Our findings indicate that EGCG itself induces apoptosis and further sensitizes RA synovial fibroblasts to TNFα-induced apoptosis by specifically blocking Mcl-1 expression and, hence, may be of promising adjunct therapeutic value in regulating the invasive growth of synovial fibroblasts in RA.
doi:10.1002/art.24488
PMCID: PMC2917979  PMID: 19404960

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