Inflammatory destructive arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is characterized by invasion of synovial fibroblasts (SF) into the articular cartilage and erosion of the underlying bone, leading to progressive joint destruction. Because fibroblast activation protein alpha (FAP) has been associated with cell migration and cell invasiveness, we studied the function of FAP in joint destruction in RA.
Expression of FAP in synovial tissues and fibroblasts from patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and RA as well as from wild-type and arthritic mice was evaluated by immunohistochemistry, fluorescence microscopy and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Fibroblast adhesion and migration capacity was assessed using cartilage attachment assays and wound-healing assays, respectively. For in vivo studies, FAP-deficient mice were crossed into the human tumor necrosis factor transgenic mice (hTNFtg), which develop a chronic inflammatory arthritis. Beside clinical assessment, inflammation, cartilage damage, and bone erosion were evaluated by histomorphometric analyses.
RA synovial tissues demonstrated high expression of FAP whereas in OA samples only marginal expression was detectable. Consistently, a higher expression was detected in arthritis SF compared to non-arthritis OA SF in vitro. FAP-deficiency in hTNFtg mice led to less cartilage degradation despite unaltered inflammation and bone erosion. Accordingly, FAP−/− hTNFtg SF demonstrated a lower cartilage adhesion capacity compared to hTNFtg SF in vitro.
These data point to a so far unknown role of FAP in the attachment of SF to cartilage, promoting proteoglycan loss and subsequently cartilage degradation in chronic inflammatory arthritis.
The overexpression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α leads to systemic as well as local loss of bone and cartilage and is also an important regulator during fracture healing. In this study, we investigate how TNF-α inhibition using a targeted monoclonal antibody affects fracture healing in a TNF-α driven animal model of human rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and elucidate the question whether enduring the anti TNF-α therapy after trauma is beneficial or not.
A standardized femur fracture was applied to wild type and human TNF-α transgenic mice (hTNFtg mice), which develop an RA-like chronic polyarthritis. hTNFtg animals were treated with anti-TNF antibody (Infliximab) during the fracture repair. Untreated animals served as controls. Fracture healing was evaluated after 14 and 28 days of treatment by clinical assessment, biomechanical testing and histomorphometry.
High levels of TNF-α influence fracture healing negatively, lead to reduced cartilage and more soft tissue in the callus as well as decreased biomechanical bone stability. Blocking TNF-α in hTNFtg mice lead to similar biomechanical and histomorphometrical properties as in wild type.
High levels of TNF-α during chronic inflammation have a negative impact on fracture healing. Our data suggest that TNF-α inhibition by an anti-TNF antibody does not interfere with fracture healing.
Anti-TNFα; Inflammation; Fracture healing; Rheumatoid arthritis; Treatment
To generate doxycycline-inducible human tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα)–transgenic mice to overcome a major disadvantage of existing transgenic mice with constitutive expression of TNFα, which is the limitation in crossing them with various knockout or transgenic mice.
A transgenic mouse line that expresses the human TNFα cytokine exclusively after doxycycline administration was generated and analyzed for the onset of diseases.
Doxycycline-inducible human TNFα–transgenic mice developed an inflammatory arthritis– and psoriasis-like phenotype, with fore and hind paws being prominently affected. The formation of “sausage digits” with characteristic involvement of the distal interphalangeal joints and nail malformation was observed. Synovial hyperplasia, enthesitis, cartilage and bone alterations, formation of pannus tissue, and inflammation of the skin epidermis and nail matrix appeared as early as 1 week after the treatment of mice with doxycycline and became aggravated over time. The abrogation of human TNFα expression by the removal of doxycycline 6 weeks after beginning stimulation resulted in fast resolution of the most advanced macroscopic and histologic disorders, and 3–6 weeks later, only minimal signs of disease were visible.
Upon doxycycline administration, the doxycycline-inducible human TNFα–transgenic mouse displays the major features of inflammatory arthritis. It represents a unique animal model for studying the molecular mechanisms of arthritis, especially the early phases of disease genesis and tissue remodeling steps upon abrogation of TNFα expression. Furthermore, unlimited crossing of doxycycline-inducible human TNFα–transgenic mice with various knockout or transgenic mice opens new possibilities for unraveling the role of various signaling molecules acting in concert with TNFα.
The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their endogenous regulators, the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMPs 1–4) are responsible for the physiological remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Among all TIMPs, TIMP3 appears to play a unique role since TIMP3 is a secreted protein and, unlike the other TIMP family members, is tightly bound to the ECM. Moreover TIMP3 has been shown to be able to induce apoptotic cell death. As little is known about the underlying mechanisms, we set out to investigate the pro-apoptotic effect of TIMP3 in human mesenchymal cells.
Lentiviral overexpression of TIMP3 in mesenchymal cells led to a strong dose-dependent induction of ligand-independent apoptosis as reflected by a five-fold increase in caspase 3 and 7 activity compared to control (pLenti6/V5-GW/lacZ) or uninfected cells, whereas exogenous TIMP3 failed to induce apoptosis. Concordantly, increased cleavage of death substrate PARP and the caspases 3 and 7 was observed in TIMP3 overexpressing cultures. Notably, activation of caspase-8 but not caspase-9 was observed in TIMP3-overexpressing cells, indicating a death receptor-dependent mechanism. Moreover, overexpression of TIMP3 led to a further induction of apoptosis after stimulation with TNF-alpha, FasL and TRAIL. Most interestingly, TIMP3-overexpression was associated with a decrease in phosphorylation of cRaf, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (Erk1/2), ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK1) and Akt and serum deprivation of TIMP3-overexpressing cells resulted in a distinct enhancement of apoptosis, pointing to an impaired signaling of serum-derived survival factors. Finally, heparinase treatment of heparan sulfate proteoglycans led to the release of TIMP3 from the surface of overexpressing cells and to a significant decrease in apoptosis indicating that the binding of TIMP3 is necessary for apoptosis induction.
The results demonstrate that exclusively cell surface-bound endogenous TIMP3 induces apoptosis in mesenchymal Cal78 cells through ligand-independent activation of death receptor signaling and blockade of survival signaling pathways.
Active rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by originating from few but affecting subsequently the majority of joints. Thus far, the pathways of the progression of the disease are largely unknown. As rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASFs) are key players in joint destruction and migrate in vitro, the current study evaluated the potential of RASFs to spread the disease in vivo. To simulate the primary joint of origin, healthy human cartilage was co-implanted subcutaneously into SCID mice together with RASFs. At the contralateral flank, healthy cartilage was implanted without cells. RASFs showed an active movement to the naïve cartilage via the vasculature independent of the site of application of RASFs into the SCID mouse, leading to a strong destruction of the target cartilage. These findings support the hypothesis that the characteristic clinical phenomenon of destructive arthritis spreading between joints is mediated, at least in part, by the transmigration of activated RASFs.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are effective in treating malignant disorders and were lately suggested to have an impact on non-malignant diseases. However, in some inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) the in vivo effect seemed to be moderate. As most TKIs are taken up actively into cells by cell membrane transporters, this study aimed to evaluate the role of such transporters for the accumulation of the TKI Imatinib mesylates in RA synovial fibroblasts as well as their regulation under inflammatory conditions.
The transport and accumulation of Imatinib was investigated in transporter-transfected HEK293 cells and human RA synovial fibroblasts (hRASF). Transporter expression was quantified by qRT-PCR. In transfection experiments, hMATE1 showed the highest apparent affinity for Imatinib among all known Imatinib transporters. Experiments quantifying the Imatinib uptake in the presence of specific transporter inhibitors and after siRNA knockdown of hMATE1 indeed identified hMATE1 to mediate Imatinib transport in hRASF. The anti-proliferative effect of Imatinib on PDGF stimulated hRASF was quantified by cell counting and directly correlated with the uptake activity of hMATE1. Expression of hMATE1 was investigated by Western blot and immuno-fluorescence. Imatinib transport under disease-relevant conditions, such as an altered pH and following stimulation with different cytokines, was also investigated by HPLC. The uptake was significantly reduced by an acidic extracellular pH as well as by the cytokines TNFα, IL-1β and IL-6, which all decreased the expression of hMATE1-mRNA and protein.
The regulation of Imatinib uptake via hMATE1 in hRASF and resulting effects on their proliferation may explain moderate in vivo effects on RA. Moreover, our results suggest that investigating transporter mediated drug processing under normal and pathological conditions is important for developing intracellular acting drugs used in inflammatory diseases.
Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) reputedly opposes chemotoxicity in Ewing sarcoma family of tumor (ESFT) cells. However, the effect of IGF1 on apoptosis induced by apoptosis ligand 2 (Apo2L)/tumor necrosis factor (TNF-) related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) remains to be established. We find that opposite to the partial survival effect of short-term IGF1 treatment, long-term IGF1 treatment amplified Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis in Apo2L/TRAIL-sensitive but not resistant ESFT cell lines. Remarkably, the specific IGF1 receptor (IGF1R) antibody α-IR3 was functionally equivalent to IGF1. Short-term IGF1 incubation of cells stimulated survival kinase AKT and increased X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) protein which was associated with Apo2L/TRAIL resistance. In contrast, long-term IGF1 incubation resulted in repression of XIAP protein through ceramide (Cer) formation derived from de novo synthesis which was associated with Apo2L/TRAIL sensitization. Addition of ceramide synthase (CerS) inhibitor fumonisin B1 during long-term IGF1 treatment reduced XIAP repression and Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Noteworthy, the resistance to conventional chemotherapeutic agents was maintained in cells following chronic IGF1 treatment. Overall, the results suggest that chronic IGF1 treatment renders ESFT cells susceptible to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis and may have important implications for the biology as well as the clinical management of refractory ESFT.
Enhancing osteogenic capabilities of bone matrix for the treatment of fractures and segmental defects using growth factors is an active area of research. Recently, synthetic peptides like AC- 100, TP508 or p-15 corresponding to biologically active sequences of matrix proteins have been proven to stimulate bone formation. The platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) BB has been identified as an important paracrine factor in early bone healing. We hypothesized that the combined use of PDGF-BB with synthetic peptides could result in an increase in proliferation and calcification of osteoblast-like cells.
Osteoblast-like cell cultures were treated with PDGF and synthetic peptides, singly and as combinations, and compared to non-treated control cell cultures. The cultures were evaluated at days 2, 5, and 10 in terms of cell proliferation, calcification and gene expression of alkaline phosphate, collagen I and osteocalcin.
Experimental findings revealed that the addition of PDGF, p-15 and TP508 and combinations of PDGF/AC-100, PDGF/p-15 and PDGF/TP508 resulted in an increase in proliferating osteoblasts, especially in the first 5 days of cultivation. Proliferation did not significantly differ between single factors and factor combinations (p > 0.05). The onset of calcification in osteoblasts occurred earlier and was more distinct compared to the corresponding control or PDGF stimulation alone. Significant difference was found for the combined use of PDGF/p-15 and PDGF/AC-100 (p < 0.05).
Our findings indicate that PDGF exhibits cooperative effects with synthetic peptides in differentiation and proliferation. These cooperative effects cause a significant early calcification of osteoblast-like cells (p < 0.05). We suggest the combination of synthetic peptides and PDGF as a potential clinical approach for accelerating bone healing or coating osteosynthesis materials.
A single Wnt can simultaneously activate different pathways with distinct and independent outcomes and reciprocal regulation in human articular chondrocytes.
Activation and disruption of Wnt/β-catenin signaling both result in cartilage breakdown via unknown mechanisms. Here we show that both WNT-3A and the Wnt inhibitor DKK1 induced de-differentiation of human articular chondrocytes through simultaneous activation of β-catenin–dependent and independent responses. WNT-3A activates both the β-catenin–dependent canonical pathway and the Ca2+/CaMKII noncanonical pathways, with distinct transcriptional targets. WNT-3A promotes cell proliferation and loss of expression of the chondrocyte markers COL2A1, Aggrecan, and SOX9; however, proliferation and AXIN2 up-regulation are downstream of the canonical pathway and are rescued by DKK1, whereas the loss of differentiation markers is CaMKII dependent. Finally, we showed that in chondrocytes, the Ca2+/CaMKII-dependent and β-catenin–dependent pathways are reciprocally inhibitory, thereby explaining why DKK1 can induce loss of differentiation through de-repression of the CaMKII pathway. We propose a novel model in which a single WNT can simultaneously activate different pathways with distinct and independent outcomes and with reciprocal regulation. This offers an opportunity for selective pharmacological targeting.
In the synovial membrane of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a strong expression of laminins and matrix degrading proteases was reported.
To investigate the regulation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in synovial fibroblasts (SFs) of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and RA by attachment to laminin‐1 (LM‐111) and in the presence or absence of costimulatory signals provided by transforming growth factor β (TGFβ).
SFs were seeded in laminin‐coated flasks and activated by addition of TGFβ. The expression of genes was investigated by quantitative reverse transcriptase‐polymerase chain reaction (qRT‐PCR), immunocytochemistry and ELISA, and intracellular signalling pathways by immunoblotting, and by poisoning p38MAPK by SB203580, MEK‐ERK by PD98059 and SMAD2 by A‐83‐01.
Attachment of SF to LM‐111 did not activate the expression of MMPs, but addition of TGFβ induced a fivefold higher expression of MMP‐3. Incubation of SF on LM‐111 in the presence of TGFβ induced a significant 12‐fold higher expression of MMP‐3 mRNA, and secretion of MMP‐3 was elevated 20‐fold above controls. Functional blocking of LM‐111–integrin interaction reduced the laminin‐activated MMP‐3 expression significantly. Stimulation of SF by LM‐111 and TGFβ activated the p38MAPK, ERK and SMAD2 pathways, and inhibition of these pathways by using SB203580, PD98059 or A‐83‐01 confirmed the involvement of these pathways in the regulation of MMP‐3.
Attachment of SF to LM‐111 by itself has only minor effects on the expression of MMP‐1 or MMP‐3, but it facilitates the TGFβ‐induced expression of MMP‐3 significantly. This mode of MMP‐3 induction may therefore contribute to inflammatory joint destruction in RA independent of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)1β or tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α.
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.
Over the last decades, genetic factors for rheumatoid diseases like the HLA haplotypes have been studied extensively. However, during the past years of research, it has become more and more evident that the influence of epigenetic processes on the development of rheumatic diseases is probably as strong as the genetic background of a patient. Epigenetic processes are heritable changes in gene expression without alteration of the nucleotide sequence. Such modifications include chromatin methylation and post-translational modification of histones or other chromatin-associated proteins. The latter comprise the addition of methyl, acetyl, and phosphoryl groups or even larger moieties such as binding of ubiquitin or small ubiquitin-like modifier. The combinatory nature of these processes forms a complex network of epigenetic modifications that regulate gene expression through activation or silencing of genes. This review provides insight into the role of epigenetic alterations in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis and points out how a better understanding of such mechanisms may lead to novel therapeutic strategies.
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.
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have been associated with the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but the individual contributions of the three MAPK family members are incompletely understood. Although previous data have established a role for c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) in different animal models of arthritis, most recent data indicate that the stable activation of p38 MAPK and in part of ERK significantly contributes to destructive arthritis in mice transgenic for human tumour necrosis factor-α. These data highlight the complexity of MAPK signalling in arthritis and provide a basis for the design of novel strategies to treat human RA.
An altered susceptibility of lung fibroblasts to Fas-induced apoptosis has been implicated in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis; however, the underlying mechanism is not completely understood. Here, we studied the susceptibility of lung fibroblasts, obtained from patients with (f-fibs) and without pulmonary fibrosis (n-fibs), to FasL- (CD95L/APO-1) induced apoptosis in relation to the expression and the amounts of membrane-bound and soluble Fas. We also analysed the effects of tumor necrosis factor-β on FasL-induced cell death.
Apoptosis was induced with recombinant human FasL, with and without prior stimulation of the fibroblasts with tumor necrosis factor-α and measured by a histone fragmentation assay and flow cytometry. The expression of Fas mRNA was determined by quantitative PCR. The expression of cell surface Fas was determined by flow cytometry, and that of soluble Fas (sFas) was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
When compared to n-fibs, f-fibs were resistant to FasL-induced apoptosis, despite significantly higher levels of Fas mRNA. F-fibs showed lower expression of surface-bound Fas but higher levels of sFas. While TNF-α increased the susceptibility to FasL-induced apoptosis in n-fibs, it had no pro-apoptotic effect in f-fibs.
The data suggest that lower expression of surface Fas, but higher levels of apoptosis-inhibiting sFas, contribute to the resistance of fibroblasts in lung fibrosis against apoptosis, to increased cellularity and also to increased formation and deposition of extracellular matrix.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the expression of Fas in periarticular tenocytes of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and to study their susceptibility to Fas ligand-mediated apoptosis. Tendon samples were obtained from the quadriceps femoris muscle of patients with knee OA and used for histological evaluation, for immunohistochemical detection of Fas, and to establish tenocyte cultures. The expression of Fas mRNA was determined by quantitative PCR. Levels of soluble Fas and soluble tumour necrosis factor (TNF) receptor I were measured using ELISA. Apoptosis was induced with recombinant human Fas ligand and measured by a histone fragmentation assay and flow cytometry. The effects of TNF-α were studied by stimulation with TNF-α alone or 24 hours before the induction of apoptosis. Tendon samples from non-OA patients were used as controls. Histological evaluation revealed degenerative changes in the tendons of all OA patients but not in the controls. Fas was detected by immunohistochemistry in all specimens, but quantitative PCR revealed significantly higher levels of Fas mRNA in OA tenocytes. In contrast, lower levels of soluble Fas were found in OA tenocytes by ELISA. OA tenocytes were significantly more susceptible to Fas ligand induced apoptosis than were control cells. TNF-α reduced the Fas ligand induced apoptosis in OA tenocytes but had no effects on control tenocytes. These data suggest that knee OA is associated with higher susceptibility of periarticular tenocytes to Fas ligand induced apoptosis because of higher expression of Fas but lower levels of apoptosis-inhibiting soluble Fas. These changes may contribute to decreased cellularity in degenerative tendons and promote their rupturing. The antiapoptotic effects of TNF-α in OA tenocytes most likely reflect regenerative attempts and must be taken into account when anti-TNF strategies are considered for OA.
apoptosis; osteoarthritis; Fas ligand; tenocytes; tumour necrosis factor-α
To date, mesenchymal cells have only been associated with bone resorption indirectly, and it has been hypothesized that the degradation of bone is associated exclusively with specific functions of osteoclasts. Here we show, in aseptic prosthesis loosening, that aggressive fibroblasts at the bone surface actively contribute to bone resorption and that this is independent of osteoclasts. In two separate models (a severe combined immunodeficient mouse coimplantation model and a dentin pit formation assay), these cells produce signs of bone resorption that are similar to those in early osteoclastic resorption. In an animal model of aseptic prosthesis loosening (i.e. intracranially self-stimulated rats), it is shown that these fibroblasts acquire their ability to degrade bone early on in their differentiation. Upon stimulation, such fibroblasts readily release acidic components that lower the pH of their pericellular milieu. Through the use of specific inhibitors, pericellular acidification is shown to involve the action of vacuolar type ATPases. Although fibroblasts, as mesenchymal derived cells, are thought to be incapable of resorbing bone, the present study provides the first evidence to challenge this widely held belief. It is demonstrated that fibroblast-like cells, under pathological conditions, may not only enhance but also actively contribute to bone resorption. These cells should therefore be considered novel therapeutic targets in the treatment of bone destructive disorders.
aseptic prosthesis loosening; bone resorption; dentin; fibroblasts; severe combined immunodeficient mouse
Synovial fibroblasts (SFs) have become a major target for ex vivo gene transfer in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but efficient transduction of RA-SFs still is a major problem. The low proliferation rate and heterogeneity of RA-SFs, together with their lack of highly specific surface receptors, have hampered a more extensive application of this technique. Improving transduction protocols with conventional viral vectors, therefore, as well as developing novel strategies, such as alternative target cells, and novel delivery systems constitute a major challenge. Recent progress in this field will lead to the achievement of high transgene expression, and will facilitate the use of gene transfer in human trials.
ex vivo approach; gene therapy; rheumatoid arthritis; viral vector
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.
fibroblasts; rheumatoid arthritis