Therapeutic senescence via GPCR activation in synovial fibroblasts facilitates resolution of arthritis

Nat Commun. 2020 Feb 6;11(1):745. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14421-x.


Rheumatoid arthritis affects individuals commonly during the most productive years of adulthood. Poor response rates and high costs associated with treatment mandate the search for new therapies. Here we show that targeting a specific G-protein coupled receptor promotes senescence in synovial fibroblasts, enabling amelioration of joint inflammation. Following activation of the melanocortin type 1 receptor (MC1), synovial fibroblasts acquire a senescence phenotype characterized by arrested proliferation, metabolic re-programming and marked gene alteration resembling the remodeling phase of wound healing, with increased matrix metalloproteinase expression and reduced collagen production. This biological response is attained by selective agonism of MC1, not shared by non-selective ligands, and dependent on downstream ERK1/2 phosphorylation. In vivo, activation of MC1 leads to anti-arthritic effects associated with induction of senescence in the synovial tissue and cartilage protection. Altogether, selective activation of MC1 is a viable strategy to induce cellular senescence, affording a distinct way to control joint inflammation and arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Experimental / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Experimental / pathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / agonists*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / deficiency
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Synovial Membrane / drug effects
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology
  • alpha-MSH / pharmacology


  • BMS-470539
  • Imidazoles
  • MC1R protein, human
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1
  • Receptors, Notch
  • alpha-MSH