Using inhibitors of metalloproteinases to treat arthritis. Easier said than done?

Arthritis Rheum. 1994 Aug;37(8):1115-26. doi: 10.1002/art.1780370802.


Collagenase and stromelysin have a premier role in the irreversible degradation of the extracellular matrix seen in rheumatic disease. It is therefore no surprise that considerable attention has been devoted to developing strategies to reduce their levels in diseased joints. Most efforts have focused on inhibiting the activity of the enzymes, either by increasing the concentration of natural inhibitors such as the TIMPs or by introducing into the joint synthetic compounds that will complex with the enzymes and inactivate them. There have also been studies directed at inhibiting enzyme synthesis. These preclinical studies have been carried out in cell-free and/or cell culture systems and in animal models. Despite promising preclinical data, there have been no stunning successes in the clinical arena. The reasons for this are several. In part, they are rooted in the technical difficulties associated with designing inhibitors of enzyme activity that are of high affinity, and then delivering them to the affected joints while still maintaining specificity and efficacy. The complicated structure of the proteoglycan and collagen that comprise articular cartilage, along with the biochemistry of inflamed synovial tissue, only compound the difficulties. In addition to these technical problems, the lack of fundamental knowledge about the biochemistry and molecular biology of the enzymes has handicapped our efforts. We are just resolving the crystal structure of the metalloproteinases (108) and beginning to understand the mechanisms controlling gene expression (67, 68, 70-72). These advances represent significant achievements in metalloproteinase enzymology and biology and should form the scientific basis for a new generation of effective therapies. For example, knowledge of the active site as derived from the crystal structure of the enzymes may facilitate the development of tightly-binding specific inhibitors which function well in vivo. Similarly, based on our current understanding of mechanisms controlling the regulation of both the TIMP genes and the MMP genes, we are beginning to elucidate how to turn these genes on or off, and hopefully, to modulate disease accordingly. Indeed, although some studies are still at a preclinical level, these possible approaches are becoming a reality (109). Arthritic diseases in general, and rheumatoid arthritis in particular, represent a complicated multifaceted set of clinical disorders. The clinical symptoms and pathologic features result from a cascade of biologic pathways that involve acute and chronic inflammation, the immune response, and metalloproteinase biochemistry.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Metalloendopeptidases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Osteoarthritis / enzymology


  • Metalloendopeptidases