TNF inhibits catecholamine production from induced sympathetic neuron-like cells in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in vitro

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 25;8(1):9645. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27927-8.


Synovial adipose stem cells (sASC) can be differentiated into catecholamine-expressing sympathetic neuron-like cells to treat experimental arthritis. However, the pro-inflammatory tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is known to be toxic to catecholaminergic cells (see Parkinson disease), and this may prevent anti-inflammatory effects in inflamed tissue. We hypothesized that TNF exhibits inhibitory effects on human differentiated sympathetic tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) neuron-like cells. For the first time, iTH+ neuron-like sympathetic cells were generated from sACSs of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) synovial tissue. Compared to untreated controls in both OA and RA, TNF-treated iTH+ cells demonstrated a weaker staining of catecholaminergic markers in cell cultures of RA/OA patients, and the amount of produced noradrenaline was markedly lower. These effects were reversed by etanercept. Exposure of iTH+ cells to synovial fluid of RA patients showed similar inhibitory effects. In mixed synovial cells, significant effects of TNF on catecholamine release were observed only in OA. This study shows that TNF inhibits iTH+ synovial cells leading to the decrease of secreted noradrenaline. This might be a reason why discovered newly appearing TH+ cells in the synovium are not able to develop their possible full anti-inflammatory role in arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Catecholamines / biosynthesis*
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / pathology*
  • Synovial Fluid / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*


  • Catecholamines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Norepinephrine