Expression of cyclooxygenase 1 and cyclooxygenase 2 in human synovial tissue: differential elevation of cyclooxygenase 2 in inflammatory joint diseases

Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Jan;41(1):122-9. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199801)41:1<122::AID-ART15>3.0.CO;2-8.


Objective: To compare the expression of the cyclooxygenase (COX) isoforms, COX-1 and COX-2, in synovial tissue samples between patients with inflammatory arthritis (i.e., rheumatoid arthritis [RA], ankylosing spondylitis [AS], or psoriatic arthritis [PsA]) and patients with osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: Paraffin-embedded sections of synovial tissue from patients with OA (n = 18), RA (n = 35), AS (n = 9), and PsA (n = 16) were immunostained for COX-1 and COX-2. Staining intensity was quantified videodensitometrically from specific synovial cell areas. In addition, samples of OA and RA synovial tissue were analyzed for levels of COX-1 and COX-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Strong COX-2 immunostaining was observed in synovial blood vessel endothelium, synovial lining cells, chondrocytes, and subsynovial fibroblast-like cells in patients with inflammatory arthritides. In the blood vessels, the mean (+/-SD) optical density (MOD) of staining was elevated, especially in AS samples (2.73 +/- 0.63), but also in PsA (1.99 +/- 0.66) and RA samples (1.54 +/- 0.73), in comparison with OA synovial tissue (0.84 +/- 0.30; P < 0.01 versus other groups). COX-1 staining was almost exclusively localized in synovial lining cells, with no significant differences in the MOD between the diseases. COX-2 mRNA expression was higher in RA than in OA samples (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: The expression of COX-2, but not the expression of COX-1, was found to be elevated in a disease-related pattern in the synovial tissue from patients with RA, AS, or PsA in comparison with OA samples, and was especially high in AS synovial tissue. These results may improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of different arthritic diseases, and may have implications for the use of selective COX-2 inhibitors in the treatment of inflammatory joint symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis / immunology
  • Arthritis / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic / immunology
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic / metabolism
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / immunology
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / analysis
  • Isoenzymes / genetics*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / immunology
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Peroxidases / analysis
  • Peroxidases / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / analysis
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / immunology
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / metabolism
  • Synovial Membrane / enzymology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Isoenzymes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Peroxidases
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS1 protein, human
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases