Objective: A hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is invasion of the synovial pannus into cartilage, and this process requires degradation of the collagen matrix. The aim of this study was to explore the role of one of the collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), membrane type 1 MMP (MT1-MMP), in synovial pannus invasiveness.
Methods: The expression and localization of MT1-MMP in human RA pannus were investigated by Western blot analysis of primary synovial cells and immunohistochemical analysis of RA joint specimens. The functional role of MT1-MMP was analyzed by 3-dimensional (3-D) collagen invasion assays and a cartilage invasion assay in the presence or absence of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 1 (TIMP-1), TIMP-2, or GM6001. The effect of adenoviral expression of a dominant-negative MT1-MMP construct lacking a catalytic domain was also examined.
Results: MT1-MMP was highly expressed at the pannus-cartilage junction in RA joints. Freshly isolated rheumatoid synovial tissue and isolated RA synovial fibroblasts invaded into a 3-D collagen matrix in an MT1-MMP-dependent manner. Invasion was blocked by TIMP-2 and GM6001 but not by TIMP-1. Invasion was also inhibited by the overexpression of a dominant-negative MT1-MMP, which inhibits collagenolytic activity and proMMP-2 activation by MT1-MMP on the cell surface. Synovial fibroblasts also invaded into cartilage in an MT1-MMP-dependent manner. This process was further enhanced by removing aggrecan from the cartilage matrix.
Conclusion: MT1-MMP serves as an essential collagen-degrading proteinase during pannus invasion in human RA. Specific inhibition of MT1-MMP-dependent invasion may represent a novel therapeutic strategy for RA.