Objective: Synovial inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) leads to pannus tissue invasion and destruction of cartilage/bone matrix by proteinases. Our intention was to analyze some of the key matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in pannus tissue overlying evolving cartilage erosions in RA.
Methods: Frozen tissue samples of pannus and synovium from advanced RA and synovium from osteoarthritic patients were used for immunohistochemical, western blotting and quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of MMP-1, -3, -13 and -14. Synovial fibroblast cultures, stimulated with tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta), were analyzed with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and quantitative RT-PCR.
Results: MMP-3 was highly expressed in pannus tissue compared with significantly lower expression levels of MMP-1, -13 and -14. In fibroblast cultures IL-1beta was a potent stimulus for MMP-3, whereas TNF-alpha was more potent for MMP-1.
Conclusion: This is the first study to demonstrate quantitatively in real time that MMP-3 mRNA expression is clearly higher in advanced RA pannus tissue compared to parallel RA or osteoarthritic synovium. MMP-3 mRNA levels were also clearly overexpressed in RA pannus compared to MMP-1, -13 and -14. Advanced RA has previously been found to overexpress IL-1beta. The high expression of MMP-3 in pannus and IL-1beta, mediated stimulation of MMP-3 suggest that MMP-3 plays a significant role in the progression of erosions through the proteoglycan-rich cartilage matrix.