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1.  Synovial fibroblasts spread rheumatoid arthritis to unaffected joints 
Nature medicine  2009;15(12):1414-1420.
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.
doi:10.1038/nm.2050
PMCID: PMC3678354  PMID: 19898488
2.  Epigenetic contributions in the development of rheumatoid arthritis 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints with severe pain and swelling, joint damage and disability, which leads to joint destruction and loss of function. Despite extensive research efforts, the underlying cause for RA is still unknown and current therapies are more or less effective in controlling symptoms but still fail to cure the disease. In recent years, epigenetic modifications were found to strongly contribute to the development of RA by affecting diverse aspects of the disease and modifying gene expression levels and behavior of several cell types, first and foremost joint resident synovial fibroblasts (SF). RASF are the most common cell type at the site of invasion. Owing to their aggressive, intrinsically activated phenotype, RASF are active contributors in joint damage. RASF are characterized by their ability to secrete cytokines, chemokines and joint-damaging enzymes. Furthermore, these cells are resistant to apoptosis, leading to hyperplasia of the synovium. In addition, RASF have invasive and migratory properties that could lead to spreading of the disease to unaffected joints. Epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation and post-translational histone modifications, such as histone (de)acetylation, histone methylation and histone sumoylation were identified as regulatory mechanisms in controlling aggressive cell activation in vitro and in disease outcome in animal models in vivo. In the last 5 years, the field of epigenetics in RA has impressively increased. In this review we consider the role of diverse epigenetic modifications in the development of RA, with a special focus on epigenetic modifications in RASF.
doi:10.1186/ar4074
PMCID: PMC3674613  PMID: 23164162
4.  Improved Flow Cytometric Assessment Reveals Distinct Microvesicle (Cell-Derived Microparticle) Signatures in Joint Diseases 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49726.
Introduction
Microvesicles (MVs), earlier referred to as microparticles, represent a major type of extracellular vesicles currently considered as novel biomarkers in various clinical settings such as autoimmune disorders. However, the analysis of MVs in body fluids has not been fully standardized yet, and there are numerous pitfalls that hinder the correct assessment of these structures.
Methods
In this study, we analyzed synovial fluid (SF) samples of patients with osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). To assess factors that may confound MV detection in joint diseases, we used electron microscopy (EM), Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA) and mass spectrometry (MS). For flow cytometry, a method commonly used for phenotyping and enumeration of MVs, we combined recent advances in the field, and used a novel approach of differential detergent lysis for the exclusion of MV-mimicking non-vesicular signals.
Results
EM and NTA showed that substantial amounts of particles other than MVs were present in SF samples. Beyond known MV-associated proteins, MS analysis also revealed abundant plasma- and immune complex-related proteins in MV preparations. Applying improved flow cytometric analysis, we demonstrate for the first time that CD3+ and CD8+ T-cell derived SF MVs are highly elevated in patients with RA compared to OA patients (p = 0.027 and p = 0.009, respectively, after Bonferroni corrections). In JIA, we identified reduced numbers of B cell-derived MVs (p = 0.009, after Bonferroni correction).
Conclusions
Our results suggest that improved flow cytometric assessment of MVs facilitates the detection of previously unrecognized disease-associated vesicular signatures.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049726
PMCID: PMC3502255  PMID: 23185418
5.  Autotaxin expression from synovial fibroblasts is essential for the pathogenesis of modeled arthritis 
Synovial fibroblasts from patients and mice with arthritis express autotaxin, and ablation of autotaxin in fibroblasts ameliorates disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a destructive arthropathy characterized by chronic synovial inflammation that imposes a substantial socioeconomic burden. Under the influence of the proinflammatory milieu, synovial fibroblasts (SFs), the main effector cells in disease pathogenesis, become activated and hyperplastic, releasing proinflammatory factors and tissue-remodeling enzymes. This study shows that activated arthritic SFs from human patients and animal models express significant quantities of autotaxin (ATX; ENPP2), a lysophospholipase D that catalyzes the conversion of lysophosphatidylcholine to lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). ATX expression from SFs was induced by TNF, and LPA induced SF activation and effector functions in synergy with TNF. Conditional genetic ablation of ATX in mesenchymal cells, including SFs, resulted in disease attenuation in animal models of arthritis, establishing the ATX/LPA axis as a novel player in chronic inflammation and the pathogenesis of arthritis and a promising therapeutic target.
doi:10.1084/jem.20112012
PMCID: PMC3348105  PMID: 22493518
6.  Antibody Phage Display Assisted Identification of Junction Plakoglobin as a Potential Biomarker for Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47985.
To date, no plaque-derived blood biomarker is available to allow diagnosis, prognosis or monitoring of atherosclerotic vascular diseases. In this study, specimens of thrombendarterectomy material from carotid and iliac arteries were incubated in protein-free medium to obtain plaque and control secretomes for subsequent subtractive phage display. The selection of nine plaque secretome-specific antibodies and the analysis of their immunopurified antigens by mass spectrometry led to the identification of 22 proteins. One of them, junction plakoglobin (JUP-81) and its smaller isoforms (referred to as JUP-63, JUP-55 and JUP-30 by molecular weight) were confirmed by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting with independent antibodies to be present in atherosclerotic plaques and their secretomes, coronary thrombi of patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and macrophages differentiated from peripheral blood monocytes as well as macrophage-like cells differentiated from THP1 cells. Plasma of patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) (n = 15) and ACS (n = 11) contained JUP-81 at more than 2- and 14-fold higher median concentrations, respectively, than plasma of CAD-free individuals (n = 13). In conclusion, this proof of principle study identified and verified JUP isoforms as potential plasma biomarkers for atherosclerosis. Clinical validation studies are needed to determine its diagnostic efficacy and clinical utility as a biomarker for diagnosis, prognosis or monitoring of atherosclerotic vascular diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047985
PMCID: PMC3480477  PMID: 23110151
7.  ATP Induced Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression and Release from Osteoarthritis Synovial Fibroblasts Is Mediated by Purinergic Receptor P2X4 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36693.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a neuromodulator involved in nociceptive hypersensitivity in the central nervous system, is also expressed in synoviocytes of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We investigated the role of P2 purinoreceptors in the induction of BDNF expression in synovial fibroblasts (SF) of OA and RA patients. Cultured SF from patients with symptomatic knee OA and RA were stimulated with purinoreceptor agonists ATP, ADP, or UTP. The expression of BDNF mRNA was measured by quantitative TaqMan PCR. BDNF release into cell culture supernatants was monitored by ELISA. P2X4 expression in synovial tissue was detected by immunohistochemistry. Endogenous P2X4 expression was decreased by siRNA transfection before ATP stimulation. Kinase pathways were blocked before ATP stimulation. BDNF mRNA expression levels in OASF were increased 2 h and 5 h after ATP stimulation. Mean BDNF levels in cell culture supernatants of unstimulated OASF and RASF were 19 (±9) and 67 (±49) pg/ml, respectively. BDNF levels in SF supernatants were only elevated 5 h after ATP stimulation. BDNF mRNA expression in OASF was induced both by P2X receptor agonists ATP and ADP, but not by UTP, an agonist of P2Y purinergic receptors. The ATP-induced BDNF mRNA expression in OASF was decreased by siRNA-mediated reduction of endogenous P2X4 levels compared to scrambled controls. Inhibition of p38, but not p44/42 signalling reduced the ATP-mediated BDNF mRNA induction. Here we show a functional role of the purinergic receptor P2X4 and p38 kinase in the ATP-induced expression and release of the neurotrophin BDNF in SF.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036693
PMCID: PMC3360754  PMID: 22715356
8.  Resistin in idiopathic inflammatory myopathies 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(3):R111.
Introduction
The purpose of this study was to evaluate and compare the serum levels and local expression of resistin in patients with idiopathic inflammatory myopathies to controls, and to determine the relationship between resistin levels, inflammation and disease activity.
Methods
Serum resistin levels were determined in 42 patients with inflammatory myopathies and 27 healthy controls. The association among resistin levels, inflammation, global disease activity and muscle strength was examined. The expression of resistin in muscle tissues from patients with inflammatory myopathies and healthy controls was evaluated. Gene expression and protein release from resistin-stimulated muscle and mononuclear cells were assessed.
Results
In patients with inflammatory myopathies, the serum levels of resistin were significantly higher than those observed in controls (8.53 ± 6.84 vs. 4.54 ± 1.08 ng/ml, P < 0.0001) and correlated with C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (r = 0.328, P = 0.044) and myositis disease activity assessment visual analogue scales (MYOACT) (r = 0.382, P = 0.026). Stronger association was observed between the levels of serum resistin and CRP levels (r = 0.717, P = 0.037) as well as MYOACT (r = 0.798, P = 0.007), and there was a trend towards correlation between serum resistin and myoglobin levels (r = 0.650, P = 0.067) in anti-Jo-1 positive patients. Furthermore, in patients with dermatomyositis, serum resistin levels significantly correlated with MYOACT (r = 0.667, P = 0.001), creatine kinase (r = 0.739, P = 0.001) and myoglobin levels (r = 0.791, P = 0.0003) and showed a trend towards correlation with CRP levels (r = 0.447, P = 0.067). Resistin expression in muscle tissue was significantly higher in patients with inflammatory myopathies compared to controls, and resistin induced the expression of interleukins (IL)-1β and IL-6 and monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1 in mononuclear cells but not in myocytes.
Conclusions
The results of this study indicate that higher levels of serum resistin are associated with inflammation, higher global disease activity index and muscle injury in patients with myositis-specific anti-Jo-1 antibody and patients with dermatomyositis. Furthermore, up-regulation of resistin in muscle tissue and resistin-induced synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines in mononuclear cells suggest a potential role for resistin in the pathogenesis of inflammatory myopathies.
doi:10.1186/ar3836
PMCID: PMC3446487  PMID: 22577940
9.  7th meeting of the global arthritis research network 
Last October, the 7th meeting of the Global Arthritis Research Network was held in Zurich, Switzerland. European and American experts who have made major recent contributions to molecular biology got together to provide insights into novel technologies and approaches useful for biomedical research, especially for research on arthritis and related conditions.
doi:10.1186/ar3340
PMCID: PMC3239332  PMID: 21892971
17.  Role of MicroRNAs in Fibrosis 
Fibrosis is the leading cause of organ dysfunction in diseases such as systemic sclerosis, liver cirrhosis, cardiac fibrosis, progressive kidney disease, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The hallmark of fibrosis is tissue remodeling with excess deposition of extracellular matrix components, predominantly collagens. Different cell types, cytokines, growth factors, and enzymes interact in complex pathogenic networks with myofibroblasts playing a pivotal role. MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs acting as negative regulators of gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. MicroRNAs have been associated with many basic cellular processes as well as with a wide spectrum of diseases, most notably cancer. This review provides a comprehensive overview of microRNAs regulating profibrotic pathways and extracellular matrix synthesis. The potential of miRNA for targeted therapeutic approaches in fibrotic disorders is also discussed.
doi:10.2174/1874312901206010130
PMCID: PMC3396185  PMID: 22802911
Fibrosis; fibroblasts; microRNA (miRNA)-mediated gene regulation regulation; transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β); connective tissue growth factor (CTGF); extracellular matrix (ECM); epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT); signaling pathways; antagomirs.
19.  Platelet-derived serotonin links vascular disease and tissue fibrosis 
Blocking 5-HT2B receptor provides a therapeutic target for fibrotic diseases caused by activated platelet release of serotonin during vascular damage.
Vascular damage and platelet activation are associated with tissue remodeling in diseases such as systemic sclerosis, but the molecular mechanisms underlying this association have not been identified. In this study, we show that serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) stored in platelets strongly induces extracellular matrix synthesis in interstitial fibroblasts via activation of 5-HT2B receptors (5-HT2B) in a transforming growth factor β (TGF-β)–dependent manner. Dermal fibrosis was reduced in 5-HT2B−/− mice using both inducible and genetic models of fibrosis. Pharmacologic inactivation of 5-HT2B also effectively prevented the onset of experimental fibrosis and ameliorated established fibrosis. Moreover, inhibition of platelet activation prevented fibrosis in different models of skin fibrosis. Consistently, mice deficient for TPH1, the rate-limiting enzyme for 5-HT production outside the central nervous system, showed reduced experimental skin fibrosis. These findings suggest that 5-HT/5-HT2B signaling links vascular damage and platelet activation to tissue remodeling and identify 5-HT2B as a novel therapeutic target to treat fibrotic diseases.
doi:10.1084/jem.20101629
PMCID: PMC3092343  PMID: 21518801
20.  Altered Expression of MicroRNA-203 in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts and Its Role in Fibroblast Activation 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(2):373-381.
Objective
MicroRNA (miRNA) are recognized as important regulators of a variety of fundamental biologic processes. Previously, we described increased expression of miR-155 and miR-146a in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and showed a repressive effect of miR-155 on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression in RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFs). The present study was undertaken to examine alterations in expression of miR-203 in RASFs and analyze its role in fibroblast activation.
Methods
Differentially expressed miRNA in RASFs versus osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASFs) were identified by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)–based screening of 260 individual miRNA. Transfection of miR-203 precursor was used to analyze the function of miR-203 in RASFs. Levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and MMPs were measured by real-time PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RASFs were stimulated with IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and 5-azacytidine (5-azaC). Activity of IκB kinase 2 was inhibited with SC-514.
Results
Expression of miR-203 was higher in RASFs than in OASFs or fibroblasts from healthy donors. Levels of miR-203 did not change upon stimulation with IL-1β, TNFα, or LPS; however, DNA demethylation with 5-azaC increased the expression of miR-203. Enforced expression of miR-203 led to significantly increased levels of MMP-1 and IL-6. Induction of IL-6 by miR-203 overexpression was inhibited by blocking of the NF-κB pathway. Basal expression levels of IL-6 correlated with basal expression levels of miR-203.
Conclusion
The current results demonstrate methylation-dependent regulation of miR-203 expression in RASFs. Importantly, they also show that elevated levels of miR-203 lead to increased secretion of MMP-1 and IL-6 via the NF-κB pathway and thereby contribute to the activated phenotype of synovial fibroblasts in RA.
doi:10.1002/art.30115
PMCID: PMC3116142  PMID: 21279994
22.  Imbalance in distribution of functional autologous regulatory T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(9):1151-1156.
Objectives
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) exert their anti‐inflammatory activity predominantly by cell contact‐dependent mechanisms. A study was undertaken to investigate the regulatory capacity of autologous peripheral blood Tregs in contact with synovial tissue cell cultures, and to evaluate their presence in peripheral blood, synovial tissue and synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
44 patients with RA and 5 with osteoarthritis were included in the study. The frequency of interferon (IFN)γ‐secreting cells was quantified in synovial tissue cell cultures, CD3‐depleted synovial tissue cell cultures, synovial tissue cultures co‐cultured with autologous CD4+ and with CD4+CD25+ peripheral blood T cells by ELISPOT. Total CD3+, Th1 polarised and Tregs were quantified by real‐time PCR for CD3ε, T‐bet and FoxP3 mRNA, and by immunohistochemistry for FoxP3 protein.
Results
RA synovial tissue cell cultures exhibited spontaneous expression of IFNγ which was abrogated by depletion of CD3+ T cells and specifically reduced by co‐culture with autologous peripheral blood Treg. The presence of Treg in RA synovitis was indicated by FoxP3 mRNA expression and confirmed by immunohistochemistry. The amount of FoxP3 transcripts, however, was lower in the synovial membrane than in peripheral blood or synovial fluid. The T‐bet/FoxP3 ratio correlated with both a higher grade of synovial tissue lymphocyte infiltration and higher disease activity.
Conclusion
This study has shown, for the first time in human RA, the efficacy of autologous Tregs in reducing the inflammatory activity of synovial tissue cell cultures ex vivo, while in the synovium FoxP3+ Tregs of patients with RA are reduced compared with peripheral blood and synovial fluid. This local imbalance of Th1 and Treg may be responsible for repeated rheumatic flares and thus will be of interest as a target for future treatments.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.068320
PMCID: PMC1955165  PMID: 17392348
23.  Cell culture and passaging alters gene expression pattern and proliferation rate in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts 
Introduction
Rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) are key players in synovial pathophysiology and are therefore examined extensively in various experimental approaches. We evaluated, whether passaging during culture and freezing has effects on gene expression and cell proliferation.
Methods
RASF were passaged for up to 8 passages. RNA was isolated after each passage and cDNA arrays were performed to evaluate the RNA expression pattern during passaging. In addition, doubling time of the cells was also measured.
Results
From passages 2-4, mRNA expression did not change significantly. Gene expression in RASF started to change in passages 5-6 with 7-10% differentially expressed genes. After passages 7-8, more than 10% of the genes were differentially expressed. The doubling rate was constant for up to 5 passages and decreased after passages 6-8. After freezing, gene expression of the second passage is comparable to gene expression prior to freezing.
Conclusions
The results of this study show, that experiments, which examine gene expression of RASF and shall reflect or imitate an in vivo situation, should be limited to early culture passages to avoid cell culture effects. It is not necessary to stop culturing SF after a few passages, but to keep the problems of cell culture in mind to avoid false positive results. Especially, when large-scale screening methods on mRNA level are used. Of note, freezing does not affect gene expression substantially.
doi:10.1186/ar3010
PMCID: PMC2911867  PMID: 20462438
24.  Attachment to laminin‐111 facilitates transforming growth factor β‐induced expression of matrix metalloproteinase‐3 in synovial fibroblasts 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;66(4):446-451.
Background
In the synovial membrane of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a strong expression of laminins and matrix degrading proteases was reported.
Aim
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).
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.060228
PMCID: PMC1856036  PMID: 17124250
25.  Hypoxia. Hypoxia in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis 
Autoimmunity, microangiopathy and tissue fibrosis are hallmarks of systemic sclerosis (SSc). Vascular alterations and reduced capillary density decrease blood flow and impair tissue oxygenation in SSc. Oxygen supply is further reduced by accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM), which increases diffusion distances from blood vessels to cells. Therefore, severe hypoxia is a characteristic feature of SSc and might contribute directly to the progression of the disease. Hypoxia stimulates the production of ECM proteins by SSc fibroblasts in a transforming growth factor-β-dependent manner. The induction of ECM proteins by hypoxia is mediated via hypoxia-inducible factor-1α-dependent and -independent pathways. Hypoxia may also aggravate vascular disease in SSc by perturbing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor signalling. Hypoxia is a potent inducer of VEGF and may cause chronic VEGF over-expression in SSc. Uncontrolled over-expression of VEGF has been shown to have deleterious effects on angiogenesis because it leads to the formation of chaotic vessels with decreased blood flow. Altogether, hypoxia might play a central role in pathogenesis of SSc by augmenting vascular disease and tissue fibrosis.
doi:10.1186/ar2598
PMCID: PMC2688169  PMID: 19473554

Results 1-25 (44)