To examine the relative importance of tumour necrosis factor‐receptor 1 (TNF‐R1) and TNF‐R2 and their signalling pathways for pro‐inflammatory and pro‐destructive features of early‐passage synovial fibroblasts (SFB) from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
Cells were stimulated with tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α or agonistic anti‐TNF‐R1/TNF‐R2 monoclonal antibodies. Phosphorylation of p38, ERK and JNK kinases was assessed by western blot; proliferation by bromodesoxyuridine incorporation; interleukin (IL)6, IL8, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)‐1 secretion by ELISA; and MMP‐3 secretion by western blot. Functional assays were performed with or without inhibition of p38 (SB203580), ERK (U0126) or JNK (SP600125).
In RA‐ and OA‐SFB, TNFα‐induced phosphorylation of p38, ERK or JNK was exclusively mediated by TNF‐R1. Reduction of proliferation and induction of IL6, IL8 and MMP‐1 were solely mediated by TNF‐R1, whereas PGE2 and MMP‐3 secretion was mediated by both TNF‐Rs. In general, inhibition of ERK or JNK did not significantly alter the TNFα influence on these effector molecules. In contrast, inhibition of p38 reversed TNFα effects on proliferation and IL6/PGE2 secretion (but not on IL8 and MMP‐3 secretion). The above effects were comparable in RA‐ and OA‐SFB, except that TNFα‐induced MMP‐1 secretion was reversed by p38 inhibition only in OA‐SFB.
In early‐passage RA/OA‐SFB, activation of MAPK cascades and pro‐inflammatory/pro‐destructive features by TNFα is predominantly mediated by TNF‐R1 and, for proliferation and IL6/PGE2 secretion, exclusively regulated by p38. Strikingly, RA‐SFB are insensitive to p38 inhibition of MMP‐1 secretion. This indicates a resistance of RA‐SFB to the inhibition of pro‐destructive functions and suggests underlying structural/functional alterations of the p38 pathway, which may contribute to the pathogenesis or therapeutic sensitivity of RA, or both.