Objective: To compare the expression of cathepsin L, cathepsin D, and collagenase messenger RNA (mRNA) in synovial specimens from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: The expression of cathepsins L and D as well as collagenase mRNA in synovial tissues from 8 patients with RA, 6 patients with OA, and 2 patients with noninflamed joints was evaluated using in situ hybridization with digoxigenin-labeled RNA probes.
Results: Both RA and OA synovial tissue expressed cathepsins L and D as well as collagenase mRNA. The expression of the cathepsins was markedly higher in interstitial regions and, to some extent, in perivascular infiltrates of RA synovial tissue compared with OA specimens.
Conclusion: Cathepsins L and D mRNA are expressed differently in RA and OA synovial tissues, supporting the concept that these enzymes may contribute to the influx of mononuclear cells into RA synovium. Moreover, the data reveal that the expression of collagenase and cathepsins in RA and OA synovial lining is otherwise largely similar, and suggest that the adhesion of synovial cells to cartilage mediates the invasive destructive process in RA.