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1.  Synovial microparticles from arthritic patients modulate chemokine and cytokine release by synoviocytes 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(3):R536-R544.
Synovial fluid from patients with various arthritides contains procoagulant, cell-derived microparticles. Here we studied whether synovial microparticles modulate the release of chemokines and cytokines by fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS). Microparticles, isolated from the synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and arthritis control (AC) patients (n = 8 and n = 3, respectively), were identified and quantified by flow cytometry. Simultaneously, arthroscopically guided synovial biopsies were taken from the same knee joint as the synovial fluid. FLS were isolated, cultured, and incubated for 24 hours in the absence or presence of autologous microparticles. Subsequently, cell-free culture supernatants were collected and concentrations of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), IL-6, IL-8, granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and intracellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) were determined. Results were consistent with previous observations: synovial fluid from all RA as well as AC patients contained microparticles of monocytic and granulocytic origin. Incubation with autologous microparticles increased the levels of MCP-1, IL-8 and RANTES in 6 of 11 cultures of FLS, and IL-6, ICAM-1 and VEGF in 10 cultures. Total numbers of microparticles were correlated with the IL-8 (r = 0.91, P < 0.0001) and MCP-1 concentrations (r = 0.81, P < 0.0001), as did the numbers of granulocyte-derived microparticles (r = 0.89, P < 0.0001 and r = 0.93, P < 0.0001, respectively). In contrast, GM-CSF levels were decreased. These results demonstrate that microparticles might modulate the release of chemokines and cytokines by FLS and might therefore have a function in synovial inflammation and angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1174949  PMID: 15899040
2.  Anchorage on fibronectin via VLA‐5 (α5β1 integrin) protects rheumatoid synovial cells from Fas‐induced apoptosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2005;65(6):721-727.
Rheumatoid synovial cells are resistant to apoptosis induction in vivo, whereas, fibroblast‐like synovial cells in rheumatoid arthritis (RA‐FLS) are vulnerable to Fas‐induced apoptosis in vitro.
To clarify this discrepancy by studying the contribution of the interaction between cellular integrin and matrix fibronectin (Fn), which is significantly increased in the rheumatoid joints, to the induction of apoptosis in RA‐FLS.
Integrin and Fas mRNAs were measured by reverse transcription‐polymerase chain reaction in RA‐FLS. Integrins expressed in rheumatoid synovial tissues were analysed by immunohistochemistry. RA‐FLS plated either on Fn or on control poly‐l‐lysine were incubated with agonistic anti‐Fas monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Apoptosis induction was evaluated using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase mediated UTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) and immunoblotting for caspase‐3 and poly (ADP‐ribose) polymerase in the presence or absence of anti‐VLA‐5 mAb.
VLA‐5 (α5β1 integrin), a major integrin expressed on RA‐FLS, was required for the adhesion of RA‐FLS on Fn. RA‐FLS plated on Fn were more resistant to Fas‐induced apoptosis than those plated on control poly‐l‐lysine. This protection by Fn was reversed by anti‐VLA‐5 mAb.
Anchorage of RA‐FLS on matrix Fn via VLA‐5 protects RA‐FLS from Fas‐induced apoptosis, and Fn abundantly present in rheumatoid synovium appears to afford RA‐FLS resistance against apoptosis induction in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1798166  PMID: 16249227
integrin; apoptosis; Fas; rheumatoid synovial cell; rheumatoid arthritis; fibronectin
3.  Susceptibility of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis is cell cycle-dependent 
The rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovium is characterised by the presence of an aggressive population of activated synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) that are prominently involved in the destruction of articular cartilage and bone. Accumulating evidence suggests that RASFs are relatively resistant to Fas-ligand (FasL)-induced apoptosis, but the data concerning tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) have been conflicting. Here, we hypothesise that the susceptibility of RASFs to receptor-mediated apoptosis depends on the proliferation status of these cells and therefore analysed the cell cycle dependency of FasL- and TRAIL-induced programmed cell death of RASFs in vitro.
Synovial fibroblasts were isolated from patients with RA by enzymatic digestion and cultured under standard conditions. Cell cycle analysis was performed using flow cytometry and staining with propidium iodide. RASFs were synchronised or arrested in various phases of the cell cycle with 0.5 mM hydroxyurea or 2.5 μg/ml nocodazol and with foetal calf serum-free insulin-transferrin-sodium selenite supplemented medium. Apoptosis was induced by stimulation with 100 ng/ml FasL or 100 ng/ml TRAIL over 18 hours. The apoptotic response was measured using the Apo-ONE® Homogenous Caspase-3/7 Assay (Promega GmbH, Mannheim, Germany) and the Cell Death Detection (ELISAPlus) (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) (Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Mannheim, Germany). Staurosporin-treated cells (1 μg/ml) served as a positive control. Expression of Fas and TRAIL receptors (TRAILR1-4) was determined by fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis.
Freshly isolated RASFs showed only low proliferation in vitro, and the rate decreased further over time, particularly when RASFs became confluent. RASFs expressed Fas, TRAIL receptor-1, and TRAIL receptor-2, and the expression levels were independent of the cell cycle. However, the proliferation rate significantly influenced the susceptibility to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Specifically, proliferating RASFs were less sensitive to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis than RASFs with a decreased proliferation rate. Furthermore, RASFs that were synchronised in S phase or G2/M phase were less sensitive to TRAIL-induced apoptosis than synchronised RASFs in G0/G1 phase.
Our data indicate that the susceptibility of RASFs to FasL- and TRAIL-induced apoptosis depends on the cell cycle. These results may explain some conflicting data on the ability of RASFs to undergo FasL- and TRAIL-mediated cell death and suggest that strategies to sensitise RASFs to apoptosis may include the targeting of cell cycle-regulating genes.
PMCID: PMC2688248  PMID: 19196465
4.  Microparticle-induced release of B-lymphocyte regulators by rheumatoid synoviocytes 
In the present study, we investigated the ability of microparticles isolated from synovial fluids from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis to induce the synthesis and release of key cytokines of B-lymphocyte modulation such as B cell-activating factor, thymic stroma lymphopoietin, and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor by rheumatoid fibroblast-like synoviocytes.
Microparticles were analyzed in synovial fluids from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, microcristalline arthritis, and reactive arthritis. In addition, microparticle release after activation from various cell lines (CEM lymphocyte and THP-1 cells) was assessed. Microparticles were isolated by differential centrifugation, and quantitative determinations were carried out by prothrombinase assay after capture on immobilized annexin V. B cell-activating factor, thymic stroma lymphopoietin, and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor release was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Microparticles isolated from synovial fluids obtained from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients or microparticles derived from activated THP-1 cells were able to induce B cell-activating factor, thymic stroma lymphopoietin, and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor release by rheumatoid arthritis fibroblast-like synoviocytes. Conversely, CEM-lymphocytes-derived microparticles generated by treatment with a combination of PHA, PMA and Adt-D did not promote the release of B cell-activating factor but favored the secretion of thymic stroma lymphopoietin and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor by rheumatoid arthritis fibrobast-like synoviocytes. However, microparticles isolated from actinomycin D-treated CEM lymphocytes were not able to induce B cell-activating factor, thymic stroma lymphopoietin, or secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor release, indicating that microparticles derived from apoptotic T cells do not function as effectors in B-cell activation.
These results demonstrate that microparticles are signalling structures that may act as specific conveyors in the triggered induction and amplification of autoimmunity. This study also indicates that microparticles have differential effects in the crosstalk between B lymphocytes and target cells of autoimmunity regarding the parental cells from which they derive.
PMCID: PMC2688187  PMID: 19291304
5.  Akt activity protects rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts from Fas-induced apoptosis by inhibition of Bid cleavage 
Synovial hyperplasia is a main feature of rheumatoid arthritis pathology that leads to cartilage and bone damage in the inflamed joints. Impaired apoptosis of resident synoviocytes is pivotal in this process. Apoptosis resistance seems to involve defects in the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways. The aim of this study was to investigate the association of PI3Kinase/Akt and the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway in the resistance of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) fibroblast like synovial cells (FLS) to Fas-mediated apoptosis.
Apoptosis was assessed by ELISA quantification of nucleosomal release, Hoechst staining and activated caspase-3/7 measure in cultured RA FLS stimulated with anti-Fas antibody. Two Phosphoinositol-3-kinase/protein Kinase B (PI3 Kinase) inhibitors, Wortmannine and LY294002, were used before anti-Fas stimulation. Proapoptotic BH3 interacting domain death agonist (Bid) was suppressed in RA FLS by small interfering RNA (siRNA) transfection. Bid was overexpressed by transfection with the pDsRed2-Bid vector. Phosphorylated Akt, caspase-9, and Bid expression were analysed by western blot.
PI3 kinase inhibition sensitizes RA FLS to Fas-induced apoptosis by increasing cleavage of Bid protein. Bid suppression completely abrogated Fas-induced apoptosis and Bid overexpression highly increased apoptotic rate of RA FLS in association with cleavage of caspase-9.
In RA FLS, phosphorylation of Akt protects against Fas-induced apoptosis through inhibition of Bid cleavage. The connection between the extrinsic and the intrinsic apoptotic pathways are critical in this Fas- mediated apoptosis and points to PI3Kinase as potential therapeutic target for RA.
PMCID: PMC2875667  PMID: 20187936
6.  Differential Survival of Leukocyte Subsets Mediated by Synovial, Bone Marrow, and Skin Fibroblasts 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2006;54(7):2096-2108.
Synovial fibroblasts share a number of phenotype markers with fibroblasts derived from bone marrow. In this study we investigated the role of matched fibroblasts obtained from 3 different sources (bone marrow, synovium, and skin) to test the hypothesis that synovial fibroblasts share similarities with bone marrow–derived fibroblasts in terms of their ability to support survival of T cells and neutrophils.
Matched synovial, bone marrow, and skin fibroblasts were established from 8 different patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were undergoing knee or hip surgery. Resting or activated fibroblasts were cocultured with either CD4 T cells or neutrophils, and the degree of leukocyte survival, apoptosis, and proliferation were measured.
Fibroblasts derived from all 3 sites supported increased survival of CD4 T cells, mediated principally by interferon-β. However, synovial and bone marrow fibroblasts shared an enhanced site-specific ability to maintain CD4 T cell survival in the absence of proliferation, an effect that was independent of fibroblast activation or proliferation but required direct T cell–fibroblast cell contact. In contrast, fibroblast-mediated neutrophil survival was less efficient, being independent of the site of origin of the fibroblast but dependent on prior fibroblast activation, and mediated solely by soluble factors, principally granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor.
These results suggest an important functional role for fibroblasts in the differential accumulation of leukocyte subsets in a variety of tissue microenvironments. The findings also provide a potential explanation for site-specific differences in the pattern of T cell and neutrophil accumulation observed in chronic inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3119431  PMID: 16802344
7.  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2917979  PMID: 19404960
8.  Platelets Amplify Inflammation in Arthritis via Collagen-Dependent Microparticle Production 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;327(5965):580-583.
In addition to their pivotal role in thrombosis and wound repair, platelets participate in inflammatory responses. We investigated the role of platelets in the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. We identified platelet microparticles—submicrometer vesicles elaborated by activated platelets—in joint fluid from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis, but not in joint fluid from patients with osteoarthritis. Platelet microparticles were proinflammatory, eliciting cytokine responses from synovial fibroblasts via interleukin-1. Consistent with these findings, depletion of platelets attenuated murine inflammatory arthritis. Using both pharmacologic and genetic approaches, we identified the collagen receptor glycoprotein VI as a key trigger for platelet microparticle generation in arthritis pathophysiology. Thus, these findings demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for platelets and their activation-induced microparticles in inflammatory joint diseases.
PMCID: PMC2927861  PMID: 20110505
9.  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.
PMCID: PMC2095291  PMID: 17934089
10.  Activated complement components and complement activator molecules on the surface of cell‐derived microparticles in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and healthy individuals 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(8):1085-1092.
In vitro, microparticles can activate complement via the classical pathway. If demonstrable ex vivo, this mechanism may contribute to the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We therefore investigated the presence of activated complement components and complement activator molecules on the surface of cell‐derived microparticles of RA patients and healthy individuals.
Microparticles from synovial fluid (n = 8) and plasma (n = 9) of 10 RA patients and plasma of sex‐ and age‐matched healthy individuals (n = 10) were analysed by flow cytometry for bound complement components (C1q, C4, C3) and complement activator molecules (C‐reactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid P component (SAP), immunoglobulin (Ig) M, IgG).
Microparticles with bound C1q, C4, and/or C3 were abundant in RA synovial fluid, while in RA and control plasma much lower levels were present. Microparticles with bound C1q correlated with those with bound C3 in synovial fluid (r = 0.961, p = 0.0001), and with those with bound C4 in plasma (RA: r = 0.908, p = 0.0007; control: r = 0.632, p = 0.0498), indicating classical pathway activation. In synovial fluid, microparticles with IgM and IgG correlated with those with C1q (r = 0.728, p = 0.0408; r = 0.952, p = 0.0003, respectively), and in plasma, microparticles with CRP correlated with those with C1q (RA: r = 0.903, p = 0.0021; control: r = 0.683, p = 0.0296), implicating IgG and IgM in the classical pathway activation in RA synovial fluid, and CRP in the low level classical pathway activation in plasma.
This study demonstrates the presence of bound complement components and activator molecules on microparticles ex vivo, and supports their role in low grade complement activation in plasma and increased complement activation in RA synovial fluid.
PMCID: PMC1954699  PMID: 17261534
complement activation; microparticles; rheumatoid arthritis
11.  Inflammation and Bone Destruction in Arthritis: Synergistic Activity of Immune and Mesenchymal Cells in Joints 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an immune-mediated disease of the joints that is characterized by chronic inflammation and synovial hyperplasia that eventually lead to cartilage and bone destruction. Synovial fibroblasts are mesenchymal cells recognized as a key cell population in RA due to their hyperproliferative and hypersensitive properties in the inflammatory milieu and hyperproduction of both inflammatory cytokines and matrix-degrading enzymes. On the immune cell side, a wealth of evidence has shown that CD4+T-cells, especially IL-17 producing helper T (Th17) cells, play a prominent role, particularly in the initiation of systemic immune response in RA. However, it is still unclear how the local chronic inflammation in the joint is elicited by a systemic immune response. Recent studies have shed light on the importance of the interaction between immune and mesenchymal cells in joints including synovial fibroblasts. In particular, mesenchymal cells contribute to the Th17-mediated chronic inflammation in RA by promoting the migration of Th17 cells to the inflamed site and then the homeostatic proliferation and concomitant increase in IL-17 production. In addition, recent progress in osteoimmunology has provided new insight into the pathogenesis of the bone destruction which takes place in RA. Th17-related cytokines have been shown to enhance osteoclastogenesis, mainly via synovial fibroblasts. Thus, mesenchymal cells are a determinant of the development of RA that links the systemic immune response and the local disorder in the joints. In addition, the interaction of immune and mesenchymal cells plays a key role in both the chronic inflammation and bone destruction seen in RA. Elucidation of the precise events involved in this interaction will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which chronic inflammation and bone destruction in joint results from a systemic immune response, and also will help provide a molecular basis for novel therapeutic strategies to treat RA.
PMCID: PMC3342288  PMID: 22566958
CD4+T-cell; Th17 cell; synovial fibroblast; osteoclast; inflammation; bone destruction; rheumatoid arthritis
Derangements of synovial membranes and cartilage occur early in the course of rheumatoid arthritis. These important alterations of the joint tissues are probably the in vivo reflections of complicated inflammatory and immunological events. In our laboratory we have been interested in studying alterations of synovial lining cells in rheumatoid arthritis, most recently by the use of serially propagated cultures of these cells. The cellular traits described in such cultures serve to distinguish these synovial cells from other types of human fibroblasts, and several cellular alterations have been found in cultures derived from membranes of rheumatoid arthritic patients. One important finding is increased resistance of cultured rheumatoid cells to infection with rubella and NDV; this and other cellular changes suggest the possibility of an occult virus infection in the rheumatoid cells. Such viral persistence could be theoretically linked with the immunologic aberrations in rheumatoid arthritis, discussed in this symposium.
PMCID: PMC2139097  PMID: 19867375
13.  Spontaneous production of fibroblast-activating factor(s) by synovial inflammatory cells. A potential mechanism for enhanced tissue destruction 
A characteristic feature of rheumatoid arthritis is hyperplasia of the synovial lining cells and fibroblasts, the source of tissue-degrading mediators, in association with the appearance and persistence of lymphocytes in affected joints. Diseased synovial tissue obtained at arthroscopy from 10 of 12 rheumatoid arthritis patients was found to release a factor(s) that could stimulate quiescent fibroblasts to proliferate in vitro. Mononuclear cells isolated from this synovial tissue and from the synovial fluid spontaneously produced fibroblast- activating factor(s) (FAF). In contrast, synovial tissue from patients with noninflammatory joint disease did not release FAF. By gel filtration, FAF was detected in two peaks (40,000 and 15,000 mol wt) that were consistent with the previously described peripheral blood T lymphocyte- and monocyte-derived factors with identical activity. The mononuclear cells were predominantly OKT3+/Leu-1+ T lymphocytes and OKM1+ cells of monocyte/macrophage lineage that expressed HLA-DR antigens, suggesting prior activation of these cells. Mononuclear cells isolated from the peripheral blood of these patients did not spontaneously secrete FAF. Lymphocytes and monocytes from the site of synovial inflammation appear to be activated in situ to produce factors that may contribute to the hyperplasia and overgrowth of the synovial membrane in rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2187543  PMID: 3968518
14.  Inhibition of protein geranylgeranylation induces apoptosis in synovial fibroblasts 
Statins, competitive inhibitors of hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase, have recently been shown to have a therapeutic effect in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In RA, synovial fibroblasts in the synovial lining, are believed to be particularly important in the pathogenesis of disease because they recruit leukocytes into the synovium and secrete angiogenesis-promoting molecules and proteases that degrade extracellular matrix. In this study, we show a marked reduction in RA synovial fibroblast survival through the induction of apoptosis when the cells were cultured with statins. Simvastatin was more effective in RA synovial fibroblasts than atorvastatin, and both statins were more potent on tumor necrosis factor-α-induced cells. In contrast, in osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts, neither the statin nor the activation state of the cell contributed to the efficacy of apoptosis induction. Viability of statin-treated cells could be rescued by geranylgeraniol but not by farnesol, suggesting a requirement for a geranylgeranylated protein for synovial fibroblast survival. Phase partitioning experiments confirmed that in the presence of statin, geranylgeranylated proteins are redistributed to the cytoplasm. siRNA experiments demonstrated a role for Rac1 in synovial fibroblast survival. Western blotting showed that the activated phosphorylated form of Akt, a protein previously implicated in RA synovial fibroblast survival, was decreased by about 75%. The results presented in this study lend further support to the importance of elevated pAkt levels to RA synovial fibroblast survival and suggest that statins might have a beneficial role in reducing the aberrant pAkt levels in patients with RA. The results may also partly explain the therapeutic effect of atorvastatin in patients with RA.
PMCID: PMC1779395  PMID: 16774691
15.  Intracellular Signaling Pathways in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Dysfunctional intracellular signaling involving deregulated activation of the Janus Kinase/Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (JAK/STAT) and “cross-talk” between JAK/STAT and the stress-activated protein kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase (SAPK/MAPK) and Phosphatidylinositide-3-Kinase/AKT/mammalian Target of Rapamycin (PI-3K/AKT/mTOR) pathways play a critical role in rheumatoid arthritis. This is exemplified by immune-mediated chronic inflammation, up-regulated matrix metalloproteinase gene expression, induction of articular chondrocyte apoptosis and “apoptosis-resistance” in rheumatoid synovial tissue. An important consideration in the development of novel therapeutics for rheumatoid arthritis will be the extent to which inhibiting these signal transduction pathways will sufficiently suppress immune cell-mediated inflammation to produce a lasting clinical remission and halt the progression of rheumatoid arthritis pathology. In that regard, the majority of the evidence accumulated over the past decade indicated that merely suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokine-mediated JAK/ STAT, SAPK/MAPK or PI-3K/AKT/mTOR activation in RA patients may be necessary but not sufficient to result in clinical improvement. Thus, targeting aberrant enzyme activities of spleen tyrosine kinase, sphingosine kinases-1, -2, transforming growth factor β-activated kinase-1, bone marrow kinase, and nuclear factor-κB-inducing kinase for intervention may also have to be considered.
PMCID: PMC3947501  PMID: 24619558
Apoptosis; Arthritis; Cartilage; Cell survival; Inflammation; Protein kinase; Signal transduction; Small molecule inhibitor; Synovium
16.  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
17.  The exposure of autoantigens by microparticles underlies the formation of potent inflammatory components: the microparticle-associated immune complexes 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2012;5(2):235-249.
Immunoglobulins, antigens and complement can assemble to form immune complexes (IC). ICs can be detrimental as they propagate inflammation in autoimmune diseases. Like ICs, submicron extracellular vesicles termed microparticles (MP) are present in the synovial fluid from patients affected with autoimmune arthritis. We examined MPs in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using high sensitivity flow cytometry and electron microscopy. We find that the MPs in RA synovial fluid are highly heterogeneous in size. The observed larger MPs were in fact MP-containing ICs (mpICs) and account for the majority of the detectable ICs. These mpICs frequently express the integrin CD41, consistent with platelet origin. Despite expression of the Fc receptor FcγRIIa by platelet-derived MPs, we find that the mpICs form independently of this receptor. Rather, mpICs display autoantigens vimentin and fibrinogen, and recognition of these targets by anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies contributes to the production of mpICs. Functionally, platelet mpICs are highly pro-inflammatory, eliciting leukotriene production by neutrophils. Taken together, our data suggest a unique role for platelet MPs as autoantigen-expressing elements capable of perpetuating formation of inflammatory ICs.
PMCID: PMC3569640  PMID: 23165896
arthritis; autoantigens; immune complexes; microparticles; platelets
18.  Synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis induces α-smooth muscle actin in human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells through a TGF-β1-dependent mechanism 
Experimental & Molecular Medicine  2010;42(8):565-573.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the joints. Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) is a secreted protein that promotes differentiation of synovial fibroblasts to α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA)-positive myofibroblasts to repair the damaged joints. Synovial fluid from patients with RA (RA-SF) induced expression of α-SMA in human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hASCs). RA-SF-induced α-SMA expression was abrogated by immunodepletion of TGF-β1 from RA-SF with anti-TGF-β1 antibody. Furthermore, pretreatment of hASCs with the TGF-β type I receptor inhibitor SB431542 or lentiviral small hairpin RNA-mediated silencing of TGF-β type I receptor expression in hASCs blocked RA-SF-induced α-SMA expression. Small interfering RNA-mediated silencing of Smad2 or adenoviral overexpression of Smad7 (an inhibitory Smad isoform) completely inhibited RA-SF-stimulated α-SMA expression. These results suggest that TGF-β1 plays a pivotal role in RA-SF-induced differentiation of hASCs to α-SMA-positive cells.
PMCID: PMC2928929  PMID: 20628268
mesenchymal stem cells; rheumatoid arthritis; synovial fluid; transforming growth factor β1; α-smooth muscle actin
19.  Inhibition of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Ameliorates Collagen-Induced Arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune synovitis characterized by the formation of pannus and the destruction of cartilage and bone in the synovial joints. Although immune cells, which infiltrate the pannus and promote inflammation, play a prominent role in the pathogenesis of RA, other cell types also contribute. Proliferation of synovial fibroblasts, for example, underlies the formation of the pannus, while proliferation of endothelial cells results in neovascularization, which supports the growth of the pannus by supplying it with nutrients and oxygen. The synovial fibroblasts also promote inflammation in the synovium by producing cytokines and chemokines. Finally, osteoclasts cause the destruction of bone. Here we show that erlotinib, an inhibitor of the tyrosine kinase EGFR, reduces the severity of established collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a mouse model of RA—and that it does so by targeting synovial fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and osteoclasts. Erlotinib-induced attenuation of autoimmune arthritis was associated with a reduction in number of osteoclasts and blood vessels, and erlotinib inhibited the formation of murine osteoclasts and the proliferation of human endothelial cells in vitro. Erlotinib also inhibited the proliferation and cytokine production of human synovial fibroblasts in vitro. Moreover, EGFR was highly expressed and activated in the synovium of mice with CIA and patients with RA. Together, these findings suggest that EGFR plays a central role in the pathogenesis of RA and that EGFR inhibition may provide benefit in the treatment of RA.
PMCID: PMC3311775  PMID: 22393153
Rheumatoid Arthritis; Erlotinib; Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor; Synovial Fibroblast
20.  Integrins and their ligands in rheumatoid arthritis 
Integrins play an important role in cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix and other cells. Upon ligand binding, signaling is initiated and several intracellular pathways are activated. This leads to a wide variety of effects, depending on cell type. Integrin activation has been linked to proliferation, secretion of matrix-degrading enzymes, cytokine production, migration, and invasion. Dysregulated integrin expression is often found in malignant disease. Tumors use integrins to evade apoptosis or metastasize, indicating that integrin signaling has to be tightly controlled. During the course of rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial tissue is infiltrated by immune cells that secrete large amounts of cytokines. This pro-inflammatory milieu leads to an upregulation of integrin receptors and their ligands in the synovial tissue. As a consequence, integrin signaling is enhanced, leading to enhanced production of matrix-degrading enzymes and cytokines. Furthermore, in analogy to invading tumors, synovial fibroblasts start invading and degrading cartilage, thereby generating extracellular matrix debris that can further activate integrins.
PMCID: PMC3308078  PMID: 22077951
21.  Pro-apoptotic Bid is required for the resolution of the effector phase of inflammatory arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by hyperplasia of the synovial lining and destruction of cartilage and bone. Recent studies have suggested that a lack of apoptosis contributes to the hyperplasia of the synovial lining and to the failure in eliminating autoreactive cells. Mice lacking Fas or Bim, two pro-apoptotic proteins that mediate the extrinsic and intrinsic death cascades, respectively, develop enhanced K/BxN serum transfer-induced arthritis. Since the pro-apoptotic protein Bid functions as an intermediate between the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways, we examined the role that it plays in inflammatory arthritis. Mice deficient in Bid (Bid-/-) show a delay in the resolution of K/BxN serum transfer-induced arthritis. Bid-/- mice display increased inflammation, bone destruction, and pannus formation compared to wild-type mice. Furthermore, Bid-/- mice have elevated levels of CXC chemokine and IL-1β in serum, which are associated with more inflammatory cells throughout the arthritic joint. In addition, there are fewer apoptotic cells in the synovium of Bid-/- compared to Wt mice. These data suggest that extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways cooperate through Bid to limit development of inflammatory arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2206343  PMID: 17509138
22.  Autocrine control of vitamin D metabolism in synovial cells from arthritic patients 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1999;58(6):372-378.
OBJECTIVE—This study was designed to investigate whether 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3), produced by activated synovial fluid macrophages, promotes its own catabolism by upregulating vitamin D-24-hydroxylase (24-OHase) in synovial fibroblasts through a vitamin D receptor (VDR) mediated mechanism.
METHODS—Synovial macrophages and fibroblasts were derived from patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Expression of VDR and 24-OHase mRNAs was determined using in situ hybridisation. Vitamin D hydroxylase activity was determined by incubating cells with [3H]-25-(OH)D3, or [3H]-1,25-(OH)2D3, and metabolite synthesis quantified using high performance liquid chromatography.
RESULTS—1,25-(OH)2D3 increased expression of mRNA for both VDR and 24-OHase in fibroblasts by approximately threefold over 24 hours. 1,25-(OH)2D3 increased fibroblast 24-OHase activity, yielding 24-hydroxylated, and more polar, metabolites. In co-culture, fibroblasts were able to catabolise macrophage derived 1,25-(OH)2D3.
CONCLUSIONS—1,25-(OH)2D3 is produced by macrophages in vitro at biologically relevant concentrations and can increase its own catabolism by synovial fibroblasts; this effect is probably mediated via upregulation of both synovial fibroblast VDR and 24-OHase.

PMCID: PMC1752897  PMID: 10340962
23.  Fibroblast biology: Role of synovial fibroblasts in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(5):361-367.
There is growing evidence that activated synovial fibroblasts, as part of a complex cellular network, play an important role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. In recent years, significant progress has been made in elucidating the specific features of these fibroblasts. It has been understood that although macrophage and lymphocyte secreted factors contribute to their activation, rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SFs) do not merely respond to stimulation by pro-inflammatory cytokines, but show a complex pattern of molecular changes also maintained in the absence of external stimulation. This pattern of activation is characterized by alterations in the expression of regulatory genes and signaling cascades, as well as changes in pathways leading to apoptosis. These together result in the upregulation of adhesion molecules that mediate the attachment of RA-SFs to the extracellular matrix and in the overexpression of matrix degrading enzymes that mediate the progressive destruction of the joints. In addition, activated RA-SFs exert specific effects on other cell types such as macrophages and lymphocytes. While the initiating step in the activation of RA-SFs remains elusive, several key pathways of RA-SF activation have been identified. However, there is so far no single, specific marker for this phenotype of RA-SF. It appears that activated RA-SFs are characterized by a set of specific properties which together lead to their aggressive behavior.
PMCID: PMC130137  PMID: 11094449
fibroblasts; rheumatoid arthritis
24.  Citrullination of fibronectin modulates synovial fibroblast behavior 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R240.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3674601  PMID: 23127210
25.  Monocytes are essential for inhibition of synovial T-cell glucocorticoid-mediated apoptosis in rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2008;10(6):R147.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by synovial inflammation with local accumulation of mononuclear cells such as macrophages and lymphocytes. We previously demonstrated that intra-articular glucocorticoids decrease the synovial tissue (ST) T-cell population and therefore aimed to investigate whether this is mediated through modulation of apoptosis.
Apoptosis and cell phenotype were evaluated by immunohistochemistry and dual-immunofluorescence in synovial biopsy sections from 12 RA patients before and after a mean of 11 days of an intra-articular triamcinolone knee injection. In vitro, RA synovial fluid (SF)-derived T cells were evaluated for Annexin V expression by multicolor flow cytometry after 24-hour exposure to dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, or triamcinolone. We also tested induction of apoptosis by dexamethasone on psoriatic arthritis SF-derived T cells using the same method.
Intra-articular glucocorticoids reduced ST T cells but not macrophage number. ST apoptosis levels were unchanged following treatment, virtually absent from lymphoid aggregates, and minimal in CD3+ cells both before and after treatment. RA SF T cells were resistant to glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis when cultured in the presence of monocytes but were rendered sensitive to all three tested compounds upon SF isolation. Furthermore, transwell coculture of monocytes and T cells demonstrated that soluble factor(s) and not cellular contact are essential for T-cell resistance to glucocorticoid-mediated apoptosis. This feature is RA-specific as far as dexamethasone-induced apoptosis in nonisolated SF T cells obtained from psoriatic arthritis patients is concerned.
We demonstrate that monocytes rescue synovial T cells from glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis, a feature that is specific for RA. To overcome this, we propose the use of monocyte-targeted therapies rather than T-cell apoptosis-inducing therapies.
PMCID: PMC2656252  PMID: 19099567

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