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1.  The epigenome of synovial fibroblasts: an underestimated therapeutic target in rheumatoid arthritis 
Perturbed epigenetic landscape and deregulated microRNA networks are central to the permanent activation and aggressiveness of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis. Current anti-cytokine therapies, although effectively halting synovitis, cannot reverse the stably activated destructive phenotype of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts, offering rather limited protection against ongoing joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. Targeting the deregulated epigenome of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts is key to developing joint-protective strategies in rheumatoid arthritis. To date, different pathogenic mechanisms have been identified that can profoundly impact the epigenetic derangements in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts, including increased consumption of S-adenosylmethionine, a principal methyl donor in DNA methylation reactions, together with deregulation of crucial DNA- and histone-modifying enzymes. Re-establishing globally disturbed DNA methylation patterns in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts by supplementing S-adenosylmethionine while preventing its leakage into polyamine cycles may be a promising therapeutic strategy in rheumatoid arthritis and the first epigenetic treatment to target rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts at the scene of the crime. Given the dynamic nature and reversibility of epigenetic modifications, their involvement in human diseases and recent perspectives on epigenetic therapies in cancer, epigenetic targeting of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts should be within future reach.
doi:10.1186/ar4596
PMCID: PMC4075141  PMID: 25165988
2.  The Mesenchymal Stem Cell Marker CD248 (Endosialin) Is a Negative Regulator of Bone Formation in Mice 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3334-3343.
Objective
CD248 (tumor endothelial marker 1/endosialin) is found on stromal cells and is highly expressed during malignancy and inflammation. Studies have shown a reduction in inflammatory arthritis in CD248-knockout (CD248−/−) mice. The aim of the present study was to investigate the functional effect of genetic deletion of CD248 on bone mass.
Methods
Western blotting, polymerase chain reaction, and immunofluorescence were used to investigate the expression of CD248 in humans and mice. Micro-computed tomography and the 3-point bending test were used to measure bone parameters and mechanical properties of the tibiae of 10-week-old wild-type (WT) or CD248−/− mice. Human and mouse primary osteoblasts were cultured in medium containing 10 mM β-glycerophosphate and 50 μg/ml ascorbic acid to induce mineralization, and then treated with platelet-derived growth factor BB (PDGF-BB). The mineral apposition rate in vivo was calculated by identifying newly formed bone via calcein labeling.
Results
Expression of CD248 was seen in human and mouse osteoblasts, but not osteoclasts. CD248−/− mouse tibiae had higher bone mass and superior mechanical properties (increased load required to cause fracture) compared to WT mice. Primary osteoblasts from CD248−/− mice induced increased mineralization in vitro and produced increased bone over 7 days in vivo. There was no decrease in bone mineralization and no increase in proliferation of osteoblasts in response to stimulation with PDGF-BB, which could be attributed to a defect in PDGF signal transduction in the CD248−/− mice.
Conclusion
There is an unmet clinical need to address rheumatoid arthritis–associated bone loss. Genetic deletion of CD248 in mice results in high bone mass due to increased osteoblast-mediated bone formation, suggesting that targeting CD248 in rheumatoid arthritis may have the effect of increasing bone mass in addition to the previously reported effect of reducing inflammation.
doi:10.1002/art.34556
PMCID: PMC4209224  PMID: 22674221
3.  Epigenetics in rheumatic diseases 
doi:10.1186/1546-0096-12-S1-I12
PMCID: PMC4184086
4.  Exposure to Mimivirus Collagen Promotes Arthritis 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(2):838-845.
Collagens, the most abundant proteins in animals, also occur in some recently described nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses such as Mimiviridae, which replicate in amoebae. To clarify the impact of viral collagens on the immune response of animals exposed to Mimiviridae, we have investigated the localization of collagens in Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus particles and the response of mice to immunization with mimivirus particles. Using protein biotinylation, we have first shown that viral collagen encoded by open reading frame L71 is present at the surface of mimivirus particles. Exposure to mimivirus collagens elicited the production of anti-collagen antibodies in DBA/1 mice immunized intradermally with mimivirus protein extracts. This antibody response also targeted mouse collagen type II and was accompanied by T-cell reactivity to collagen and joint inflammation, as observed in collagen-induced arthritis following immunization of mice with bovine collagen type II. The broad distribution of nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses in the environment suggests that humans are constantly exposed to such large virus particles. A survey of blood sera from healthy human subjects and from rheumatoid arthritis patients indeed demonstrated that 30% of healthy-subject and 36% of rheumatoid arthritis sera recognized the major mimivirus capsid protein L425. Moreover, whereas 6% of healthy-subject sera recognized the mimivirus collagen protein L71, 22% of rheumatoid arthritis sera were positive for mimivirus L71. Accordingly, our study shows that environmental exposure to mimivirus represents a risk factor in triggering autoimmunity to collagens.
doi:10.1128/JVI.03141-13
PMCID: PMC3911627  PMID: 24173233
5.  Clinical Criteria Replenish High-Sensitive Troponin and Inflammatory Markers in the Stratification of Patients with Suspected Acute Coronary Syndrome 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98626.
Objectives
In patients with suspected acute coronary syndrome (ACS), rapid triage is essential. The aim of this study was to establish a tool for risk prediction of 30-day cardiac events (CE) on admission. 30-day cardiac events (CE) were defined as early coronary revascularization, subsequent myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular death within 30 days.
Methods and Results
This single-centre, prospective cohort study included 377 consecutive patients presenting to the emergency department with suspected ACS and for whom troponin T measurements were requested on clinical grounds. Fifteen biomarkers were analyzed in the admission sample, and clinical parameters were assessed by the TIMI risk score for unstable angina/Non-ST myocardial infarction and the GRACE risk score. Sixty-nine (18%) patients presented with and 308 (82%) without ST-elevations, respectively. Coronary angiography was performed in 165 (44%) patients with subsequent percutaneous coronary intervention – accounting for the majority of CE – in 123 (33%) patients, respectively. Eleven out of 15 biomarkers were elevated in patients with CE compared to those without. High-sensitive troponin T (hs-cTnT) was the best univariate biomarker to predict CE in Non-ST-elevation patients (AUC 0.80), but did not yield incremental information above clinical TIMI risk score (AUC 0.80 vs 0.82, p = 0.69). Equivalence testing of AUCs of risk models and non-inferiority testing demonstrated that the clinical TIMI risk score alone was non-inferior to its combination with hs-cTnT in predicting CE.
Conclusions
In patients presenting without ST-elevations, identification of those prone to CE is best based on clinical assessment based on TIMI risk score criteria and hs-cTnT.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098626
PMCID: PMC4043791  PMID: 24892556
6.  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
7.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
22.  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.
24.  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
25.  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

Results 1-25 (53)