Expression of vascular endothelial growth factor isoforms and their receptors Flt-1, KDR, and neuropilin-1 in synovial tissues of rheumatoid arthritis

J Pathol. 2000 Aug;191(4):426-33. doi: 10.1002/1096-9896(2000)9999:9999<::AID-PATH649>3.0.CO;2-E.


Angiogenesis is an indispensable process in the chronic proliferative synovitis and pannus formation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This study examined the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) isoforms and VEGF receptors, Flt-1, KDR and neuropilin-1, in RA and osteoarthritis (OA) synovia, and studied the relationship between their expression and the synovial angiogenesis. By RT-PCR analysis, the isoform VEGF(121) was constitutively expressed in all the RA (17/17 patients) and OA (8/8 patients) synovia. In contrast, the expression of the isoform VEGF(165) was observed in 41% of the RA synovia (7/17 patients), but was undetectable in the OA samples (0/8 patients). The receptor Flt-1 was almost constitutively expressed in RA (15/17 patients) and OA (8/8 patients) synovia, while the expression of KDR was detected in the synovia of six RA patients (6/17 patients; 35%) but none of the OA patients (0/8 patients). The expression of neuropilin-1, an isoform-specific receptor for VEGF(165) which enhances the binding of VEGF(165) to KDR, was also up-regulated in the same RA synovia that expressed KDR. Furthermore, there was a close correlation between the expression of isoform VEGF(165) and that of its receptors KDR and neuropilin-1. Morphometric analysis demonstrated that the vascular density is significantly higher in the RA synovial tissues with expression of VEGF(165), KDR, and neuropilin-1 than in those without their expression (p<0.01). In situ hybridization and immunohistochemical studies indicated that the cells expressing VEGF are macrophage-like synovial lining cells and spindle-shaped cells in the sublining cell layer. These results suggest that the selective up-regulation of the isoform VEGF(165) and its signalling via KDR and neuropilin-1 play an important role in the synovial angiogenesis which occurs in RA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism*
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology


  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Receptors, Growth Factor