Metal-on-metal (MoM) hip replacements, often manufactured from a cobalt-chrome alloy, are associated with adverse reactions including soft tissue necrosis and osteolysis. Histopathological analysis of MoM peri-implant tissues reveals an inflammatory cell infiltrate that includes macrophages, monocytes and neutrophils. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is an innate immune receptor activated by bacterial lipopolysaccharide. Recent studies have demonstrated that cobalt ions from metal-on-metal joints also activate human TLR4, increasing cellular secretion of inflammatory chemokines including interleukin-8 (IL-8, CXCL8) and CCL2. Chemokines recruit immune cells to the site of inflammation, and their overall effect depends on the chemokine profile produced. This study investigated the effect of cobalt on the secretion of inflammatory cytokines CCL20 and IL-6. The chemotactic potential of conditioned media from a cobalt-stimulated human monocyte cell line on primary monocytes and neutrophils was investigated using an in vitro transwell migration assay. The role of TLR4 in observed effects was studied using a small molecule TLR4-specific antagonist. Cobalt ions significantly increased release of CCL2 and IL-6 by MonoMac 6 cells (P<0.001). Conditioned media from cobalt-stimulated cells significantly increased monocyte and neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro (P<0.001). These effects were abrogated by the TLR4 antagonist (P<0.001) suggesting that they occur through cobalt activation of TLR4. This study demonstrates the role of TLR4 in cobalt-mediated immune cell chemotaxis and provides a potential mechanism by which cobalt ions may contribute to the immune cell infiltrate surrounding failed metal hip replacements. It also highlights the TLR4 signalling pathway as a potential therapeutic target in preventing cobalt-mediated inflammation.
Keywords: ARMD, adverse reactions to metal debris; Chemotaxis; CoCl2, Cobalt chloride hexahydrate; Cobalt; Inflammation; Metal-on-metal; MoM, metal-on-metal; TLR4.