mTOR regulates the invasive properties of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis

Mol Med. 2010 Sep-Oct;16(9-10):352-8. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2010.00049. Epub 2010 May 27.


The invasive properties of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) correlate with radiographic and histologic damage in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and pristane-induced arthritis (PIA). We previously determined that highly invasive FLS obtained from PIA-susceptible DA (blood type D, Agouti) rats have increased expression of genes associated with invasive cancers, including Villin-2/ezrin. Villin-2/ezrin mediates invasion via mTOR. In the present study we used the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin to assess the role of the ezrin-mTOR pathway on the invasive properties of FLS. FLS were isolated from synovial tissues from arthritic DA rats, and from RA patients. FLS were treated with rapamycin or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) for 24 h and then studied in a Matrigel-invasion assay. Supernatants were assayed for matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity, and cell lysates were used for quantification of mTOR, p70S6K1, 4EBP1 and FAK, as well as their respective phosphorylated subsets. Actin filament and FAK localization were determined by immunofluorescence. Rapamycin decreased FLS invasion in DA and RA tissues by 93% and 82%, respectively. Rapamycin treatment reduced the phosphorylation of mTOR and its substrates, p70S6K1 and 4EBP1, confirming mTOR inhibition. In conclusion, rapamycin prevented actin reorganization in both DA and RA FLS, and inhibited the directional formation of lamellipodia. Phosphorylation of the lamellipodia marker FAK was also reduced by rapamycin. MMPs were not significantly affected by rapamycin. Rapamycin significantly reduced RA and DA rat FLS invasion via the suppression of the mTOR signaling pathway. This discovery suggests that rapamycin could have a role in RA therapy aimed at reducing the articular damage and erosive changes mediated by FLS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / enzymology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Cell Movement* / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / enzymology*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology*
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Pseudopodia / drug effects
  • Pseudopodia / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology
  • Synovial Fluid / cytology*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Actins
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases
  • Sirolimus