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1.  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
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
7.  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
8.  Effect of the oral application of a highly selective MMP-13 inhibitor in three different animal models of rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2009;69(5):898-902.
Objective
To evaluate the decrease of cartilage destruction by a novel orally active and specific matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13) inhibitor in three different animal models of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Materials and methods
The SCID mouse co-implantation model of RA, the collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model in mice and the antigen-induced arthritis model (AIA) in rabbits were used.
Results
In the SCID mouse co-implantation model, the MMP-13 inhibitor reduced cartilage destruction by 75%. In the CIA model of RA, the MMP-13 inhibitor resulted in a significant and dose-dependent decrease in clinical symptoms as well as of cartilage erosion by 38% (30 mg/kg), 28% (10 mg/kg) and 21% (3 mg/kg). No significant effects were seen in the AIA model. No toxic effects were seen in all three animal models.
Conclusion
Although several MMPs in concert with other proteinases have a role in the process of cartilage destruction, there is a need for highly selective MMP inhibitors to reduce severe side effects that occur with non-specific inhibitors. Significant inhibition of MMP-13 reduced cartilage erosions in two of three tested animal models of RA. These results strongly support the development of this class of drugs to reduce or halt joint destruction in patients with RA.
doi:10.1136/ard.2008.106021
PMCID: PMC2925150  PMID: 19497915
9.  Cells of the synovium in rheumatoid arthritis. Synovial fibroblasts 
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.
doi:10.1186/ar2337
PMCID: PMC2246247  PMID: 18177509
10.  Proteinases in the joint: clinical relevance of proteinases in joint destruction 
Proteinases are involved in essential steps in cartilage and bone homeostasis. Consequently, efforts have been made to establish their potential role in the pathology of rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and spondyloarthritis. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are sensitive markers of disease severity and response to treatment, and therefore they have potential in the assessment of rheumatic diseases. Despite disappointing early results with synthetic inhibitors of MMPs, there is still much scope for developing effective and safe MMPs inhibitors, and consequently to deliver new options to inhibit joint destruction.
doi:10.1186/ar2304
PMCID: PMC2212555  PMID: 18001502
11.  Safety concerns on the development of novel therapeutic drugs 
Along with recent innovative approaches resulting in the development of new therapies such as small molecular inhibitors, therapeutic antibodies, recombinant proteins and gene therapy, there is increasing need for improved understanding of the basic molecular mechanisms that are exploited by such treatments. Helpful tools in the analysis of drug effects include high-throughput screening techniques such as microarrays, which are used in transcriptomics and pharmacogenomics. Although we are far from using these extensive and costly tests in our daily clinical routine, their application in basic research nevertheless takes us closer to individualized therapeutic strategies, in which the optimal therapeutic regimen is identified for each individual patient.
doi:10.1186/ar2032
PMCID: PMC1779448  PMID: 16968526
12.  Somatic mutations in mitochondria: the chicken or the egg? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(5):179-180.
Somatic mutations of mitochondrial DNA have been detected in various pathologies such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac disorders and aging in general. Now it has been found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis also have a higher incidence of mitochondrial mutations in synoviocytes and synovial tissue compared with patients with osteoarthritis. Furthermore, it has been shown that these mutations possibly result in changed peptides that are presented by major histocompatibility complex II and thus might be recognized as non-self by the immune system. Further studies will show whether these mutations are actually able to trigger autoimmune inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis or whether they must be considered epiphenomena of cellular damage in chronic inflammation.
doi:10.1186/ar1809
PMCID: PMC1257449  PMID: 16207343
13.  Association of circulating miR-223 and miR-16 with disease activity in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2013;73(10):1898-1904.
Background
Identification of parameters for early diagnosis and treatment response would be beneficial for patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA) to prevent ongoing joint damage. miRNAs have features of potential biomarkers, and an altered expression of miRNAs was shown in established rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Objective
To analyse RA associated miRNAs in the sera of patients with ERA to find markers of early disease, clinical activity or predictors of disease outcome.
Methods
Total RNA was isolated from whole sera in ERA patients (prior to and after 3 and 12 months of therapy with disease modifying antirheumatic drugs), in patients with established RA and in healthy controls (HC) using phenol–chloroform extraction. Expression of miR-146a, miR-155, miR-223, miR-16, miR-203, miR-132 and miR-124a was analysed by TaqMan Real Time PCR.
Results
From all analysed miRNAs, levels of miR-146a, miR-155 and miR-16 were decreased in the sera of ERA patients in comparison with established RA. A change in circulating miR-16 in the first 3 months of therapy was associated with a decrease in DAS28 in long term follow-up in ERA (p=0.002). Levels of circulating miR-223 in treatment naïve ERA correlated with C reactive protein (p=0.008), DAS28 (p=0.031) and change in DAS28 after 3 months (p=0.003) and 12 months (p=0.011) of follow-up. However, neither miR-16 nor miR-223 could distinguish ERA from HC.
Conclusions
Differential expression of circulating miR-146a, miR-155 and miR-16 in the sera of ERA patients may characterise an early stage of the disease. We suggest miR-223 as a marker of disease activity and miR-16 and miR-223 as possible predictors for disease outcome in ERA.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202815
PMCID: PMC4173742  PMID: 23897768
Rheumatoid Arthritis; DAS28; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis

Results 1-13 (13)