To clarify the roles of hyaluronan (HA) in joint inflammation and the process of joint destruction, using 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU), an inhibitor of HA synthesis, in a mouse model of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) and in a monolayer culture of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) derived from patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
DAB/1J mice were immunized with type II collagen. The effects of 4-MU were evaluated by the physiologic arthritis score, paw swelling, the histologic arthritis score, and expression of matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3) and MMP-13 in chondrocytes and synovial tissue. In vitro, the effect of 4-MU on messenger RNA and protein expression of MMP-1 and MMP-3 was determined. The effects of 4-MU on HA deposition and on serum/medium concentrations of HA were analyzed using biotinylated HA binding protein staining and an HA binding assay, respectively.
Treatment with 4-MU in mice with CIA dramatically decreased the severity of arthritis (based on the arthritis score), paw thickness, and histopathologic changes. MMP-3 and MMP-13 expression in chondrocytes and synovial cells was significantly inhibited by 4-MU in vivo. Treatment with 4-MU also inhibited MMP-1 and MMP-3 expression in tumor necrosis factor α–stimulated FLS, in a dose-dependent manner. The 4-MU–induced decreases in the serum HA concentration in mice with CIA and in “medium” and “pericellular” HA concentrations in cultured FLS support the contention that the inhibitory mechanism of 4-MU is mediated by HA suppression.
Reduced disease activity induced by 4-MU in mice with CIA revealed HA to be a crucial regulator in the course of arthritis. Therefore, 4-MU is a potential therapeutic agent in arthritis, and its inhibitory mechanism is possibly mediated by suppression of HA synthesis.