Objective: Increasing evidence indicates that the cytoskeletal protein ezrin may play a critical role in cell motility. This study aims to investigate the role of ezrin in regulating the migration and invasion of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) from patients with RA.
Methods: Synovial tissues were obtained from 12 patients with RA and 6 with OA, and then FLSs were separated from synovial tissues. The expression of ezrin and phosphorylated ezrin (p-ezrin) was examined by Western blotting or IF staining. A specific inhibitor of ezrin phosphorylation and small interference RNA-mediated ezrin knockdown were used to inhibit the phosphorylation of ezrin. Migration and invasion of FLSs in vitro were measured by the Boyden chamber assay.
Results: Increased expression of p-ezrin protein was found in synovial tissue and FLSs in patients with RA compared with patients with OA. Stimulation with TNF-α and IL-1β increased ezrin phosphorylation in RA FLSs. Inhibition of p-ezrin protein by a specific inhibitor of phosphorylation of ezrin and small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown reduced in vitro migration and invasion, as well as actin stress fibre formation in RA FLS. Furthermore, rho kinase and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal pathways were involved in the phosphorylation of ezrin and invasion of RA FLSs.
Conclusion: Increased expression of p-ezrin may contribute to aberrant aggressive behaviours of RA FLSs, which are mediated by rho kinase and the p38 MAPK pathway. This suggests a novel strategy targeting phosphorylation of ezrin to prevent synovial invasiveness and joint destruction in RA.
Keywords: ezrin; fibroblast-like synoviocytes; invasion; phosphorylation; rheumatoid arthritis; signal transduction.
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