Objective: To test the hypothesis that bacterial products acting as adjuvants, such as CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) and peptidoglycans (PGs), are able to activate synoviocytes, and to determine the involvement of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in this activation process.
Methods: Cultured synovial fibroblasts obtained from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA) were stimulated with CpG ODNs or PGs. The expression of various integrins was determined by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. TLR and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) messenger RNA (mRNA) was measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Additionally, levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-8 in the culture supernatants were assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Blocking experiments were performed by adding anti-TLR-2 and anti-TLR-4 monoclonal antibodies to cultures stimulated with bacterial PGs.
Results: Incubation of synovial fibroblasts with CpG ODNs resulted in neither up-regulation of the expression of integrins on the cell surface, up-regulation of MMP mRNA expression, nor IL-6 and IL-8 production. However, incubation of RA synovial fibroblasts as well as OA synovial fibroblasts with staphylococcal PGs led to an up-regulation of CD54 (ICAM-1) surface expression and to increased expression of MMP-1, MMP-3, and MMP-13 mRNA. Furthermore, production of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8 was increased by treatment with PGs. We demonstrated that cultured synovial fibroblasts express low levels of TLR-2 and TLR-9 mRNA. TLR-2 was up-regulated after stimulation with PGs, whereas TLR-9 mRNA remained at baseline levels after stimulation with CpG ODNs. Anti-TLR-2 monoclonal antibodies significantly inhibited production of IL-6 and IL-8 induced by stimulation with PGs.
Conclusion: We demonstrate that bacterial PGs activate synovial fibroblasts, at least partially via TLR-2, to express integrins, MMPs, and proinflammatory cytokines. Inhibition of TLR signaling pathways might therefore have a beneficial effect on both joint inflammation and joint destruction.