Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remains a debilitating autoimmune condition as many patients are refractory to existing conventional and biologic therapies, and hence successful development of novel treatments remains a critical requirement. Towards this, we now describe a synthetic drug-like small molecule analogue, SMA-12b, of an immunomodulatory parasitic worm product, ES-62, which acts both prophylactically and therapeutically against collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in mice. Mechanistic analysis revealed that SMA-12b modifies the expression of a number of inflammatory response genes, particularly those associated with the inflammasome in mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages and indeed IL-1β was the most down-regulated gene. Consistent with this, IL-1β was significantly reduced in the joints of mice with CIA treated with SMA-12b. SMA-12b also increased the expression of a number of genes associated with anti-oxidant responses that are controlled by the transcription factor NRF2 and critically, was unable to inhibit expression of IL-1β by macrophages derived from the bone marrow of NRF2(-/-) mice. Collectively, these data suggest that SMA-12b could provide the basis of an entirely novel approach to fulfilling the urgent need for new treatments for RA.
Keywords: Arthritis; ES-62; IL-1β; Inflammasome; NRF2; Parasitic worm.
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