In gout, incompletely defined molecular factors alter recognition of dormant articular and bursal monosodium urate monohydrate (MSU) crystal deposits, thereby inducing self-limiting bouts of characteristically severe neutrophilic inflammation. To define primary determinants of cellular recognition, uptake, and inflammatory responses to MSU crystals, we conducted a study to test the role of Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR-2), TLR-4, and the cytosolic TLR adapter protein myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88), which are centrally involved in innate immune recognition of microbial pathogens.
We isolated bone marrow–derived macrophages (BMDMs) in TLR-2−/−, TLR-4−/−, MyD88−/−, and congenic wild-type mice, and assessed phagocytosis and cytokine expression in response to endotoxin-free MSU crystals under serum-free conditions. MSU crystals also were injected into mouse synovium-like subcutaneous air pouches.
TLR-2−/−, TLR-4−/−, and MyD88−/− BMDMs demonstrated impaired uptake of MSU crystals in vitro. MSU crystal–induced production of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor α, keratinocyte-derived cytokine/growth-related oncogene α, and transforming growth factor β1 also were significantly suppressed in TLR-2−/− and TLR-4−/− BMDMs and were blunted in MyD88−/− BMDMs in vitro. Neutrophil influx and local induction of IL-1β in subcutaneous air pouches were suppressed 6 hours after injection of MSU crystals in TLR-2−/− and TLR-4−/− mice and were attenuated in MyD88−/− mice.
The murine host requires TLR-2, TLR-4, and MyD88 for macrophage activation and development of full-blown neutrophilic, air pouch inflammation in response to MSU crystals. Our findings implicate innate immune cellular recognition of naked MSU crystals by specific TLRs as a major factor in determining the inflammatory potential of MSU crystal deposits and the course of gouty arthritis.