Glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper (GILZ) is a glucocorticoid-induced protein, the reported molecular interactions of which suggest that it functions to inhibit inflammation. However, the role of endogenous GILZ in the regulation of inflammation in vivo has not been established. This study was undertaken to examine the expression and function of GILZ in vivo in collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a murine model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and in RA synoviocytes.
GILZ expression was detected in mouse and human synovium by immunohistochemistry and in cultured cells by real-time polymerase chain reaction and permeabilization flow cytometry. GILZ function was assessed in vivo by small interfering RNA (siRNA) silencing using cationic liposome–encapsulated GILZ or control nontargeting siRNA and was assessed in vitro using transient overexpression.
GILZ was readily detectable in the synovium of mice with CIA and was up-regulated by therapeutic doses of glucocorticoids. Depleting GILZ expression in vivo increased the clinical and histologic severity of CIA and increased synovial expression of tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-1 (IL-1), without affecting the levels of circulating cytokines or anticollagen antibodies. GILZ was highly expressed in the synovium of patients with active RA and in cultured RA synovial fibroblasts, and GILZ overexpression in synovial fibroblasts inhibited IL-6 and IL-8 release.
Our findings indicate that GILZ functions as an endogenous inhibitor of chronic inflammation via effects on cytokine expression and suggest that local modulation of GILZ expression could be a beneficial therapeutic strategy.