Background and purpose: The p38 kinase regulates the release of proinflammatory cytokines including tumour-necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) and is regarded as a potential therapeutic target in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Using the novel p38 inhibitor Org 48762-0, we investigated the therapeutic potential of p38 inhibition and compared this to anti-mouse (m)TNFalpha antibody treatment in murine collagen-induced arthritis (CIA).
Experimental approach: Pharmacological profiles of Org 48762-0 were characterized in kinase assays, cellular assays and in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation in mice. The effects of Org 48762-0 and of mTNFalpha-neutralization on established arthritis were examined in murine CIA.
Key results: Org 48762-0 potently inhibited p38alpha kinase with a high degree of kinase selectivity. In cellular assays, Org 48762-0 reduced LPS-induced TNFalpha release. Oral administration of Org 48762-0 in mice showed drug-like pharmacokinetic properties and inhibited LPS-induced cytokine production. These pharmacological characteristics of Org 48762-0 prompted a comparison of therapeutic efficacy with mTNFalpha-neutralization in CIA. Org 48762-0 and anti-mTNFalpha antibody treatment equally inhibited development of arthritis when evaluated macroscopically. Radiological analyses revealed protection against bone damage for both treatments, although statistical difference was reached with Org 48762-0 treatment only. Further, micro-computed tomographical and histopathological analyses confirmed the protective effects of Org 48762-0 on joint damage.
Conclusions and implications: Pharmacological targeting of p38 kinase provided good protection against joint tissue damage in CIA. In our experiments, neutralization of mTNFalpha produced less prominent suppression of bone damage. Our data suggest a therapeutic potential for selective and potent p38 inhibitors in RA.