FSTL1 promotes arthritis in mice by enhancing inflammatory cytokine/chemokine expression

Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Apr;64(4):1082-8. doi: 10.1002/art.33422. Epub 2011 Oct 17.


Objective: FSTL1 is a secreted glycoprotein that exacerbates murine arthritis and is overexpressed in human arthritis. The aim of this study was to determine the mechanism by which FSTL1 promotes arthritis.

Methods: Collagen-induced arthritis was induced in mice hypomorphic for FSTL1, generated with a gene trap-targeted mutant embryonic stem cell line. Arthritis was assessed by measuring paw swelling and using a qualitative arthritis index. Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells from hypomorphic mice, as well as mouse stromal ST2 cells transduced with short hairpin RNA to suppress FSTL1 expression, were stimulated with interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor α, and IL-17. The monocyte cell line U937, which does not express FSTL1, was transfected with a plasmid encoding FSTL1 and stimulated with phorbol myristate acetate and lipopolysaccharide. Cell supernatants were assayed for IL-6, IL-8, monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1), and FSTL1 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results: FSTL1 hypomorphic mice had reduced levels of FSTL1 compared to littermate controls. Following induction of arthritis, a significant correlation was observed between serum FSTL1 levels and both paw swelling and the arthritis index. Similar correlations were observed between the amount of FSTL1 produced by mesenchymal stromal cells, stromal ST2 cells, and monocytes and the secretion of IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1.

Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that FSTL1 up-regulates proinflammatory mediators important in the pathology of arthritis, and that serum levels of FSTL1 correlate with severity of arthritis. The latter supports the possibility that FSTL1 might be a target for treatment of certain forms of arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Experimental / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Chemokines / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Follistatin-Related Proteins / metabolism*
  • Joints / metabolism
  • Joints / pathology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / pathology
  • Mice
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Monocytes / pathology
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Follistatin-Related Proteins
  • Fstl1 protein, mouse