Objective: Previous studies have demonstrated that inhibition of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) decreases joint destruction in the rat adjuvant arthritis model. The present study was undertaken to investigate whether selective loss of JNK-2 function decreases joint destruction in JNK-2 knockout mice, in order to determine the role of this isoform in inflammatory arthritis.
Methods: Passive collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) was induced in Jnk2(-/-) and wild-type mice by administering anti-type II collagen antibodies. Arthritis was assessed daily using a semiquantitative clinical scoring system. Fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) were prepared from Jnk2(-/-) and wild-type mice, and JNK protein expression was determined by Western blot analysis. Matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13) expression was determined by Northern blot analysis, and activator protein 1 (AP-1) binding activity by electromobility shift assay (EMSA).
Results: The JNK protein level in Jnk2(-/-) mice with CIA was 22% of that in wild-type mice with CIA (P < 0.001), and mainly the 46-kd isoform was expressed in the former group. Surprisingly, clinical arthritis was slightly more severe in the Jnk2(-/-) mice. Histologic scores for synovial inflammation were not significantly different. However, Safranin O-stained sections from the Jnk2(-/-) mice exhibited significantly less joint damage. Although joint destruction was decreased in Jnk2(-/-) mice with CIA, EMSA and Northern blot analysis of total joint extracts revealed similar levels of AP-1 binding and MMP-13 expression in Jnk2(-/-) and wild-type mice. The lack of correlation with AP-1 activity and MMP expression was probably because non-FLS cells in the joint may express more JNK-1 than do FLS.
Conclusion: JNK-2 is a determinant of matrix degradation, but it has little effect on inflammation in arthritis. Complete inhibition of MMP expression and joint destruction will likely require combined JNK-1 and JNK-2 inhibition.