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Objective

To investigate the impact of STA-21, a promising STAT-3 inhibitor, on the development and progression of inflammatory arthritis and to determine the possible mechanisms by which STA-21 has antiarthritic effects in interleukin-1 receptor antagonist–knockout (IL-1Ra–KO) mice, an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods

IL-1Ra–KO mice were treated with intraperitoneal injections of STA-21 (0.5 mg/kg) or vehicle 3 times per week for 3 weeks. The mouse joints were assessed for clinical and histologic features of inflammatory arthritis. CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ Treg cells and CD4+IL-17+ cells were defined. Human peripheral blood mononuclear cell–derived monocytes or mouse bone marrow–derived monocyte/macrophage (BMM) cells were cultured in the presence of macrophage colony-stimulating factor alone or together with RANKL and various concentrations of STA-21, followed by staining of the cells for tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity to determine osteoclast formation.

Results

STA-21 suppressed inflammatory arthritis in IL-1Ra–KO mice. The proportion of Th17 cells was decreased and the proportion of Treg cells expressing FoxP3 was markedly increased in the spleens of STA-21–treated mice. Adoptive transfer of CD4+CD25+ T cells obtained from STA-21–treated IL-1Ra–KO mice markedly suppressed inflammatory arthritis. In vitro treatment with STA-21 induced the expression of FoxP3 and repressed IL-17 expression in both mouse and human CD4+ T cells. Moreover, STA-21 prevented both mouse BMM cells and human monocytes from differentiating into osteoclasts in vitro.

Conclusion

STA-21 improved the clinical course of arthritis in IL-1Ra–KO mice. It increased not only the number of Treg cells but also the function of the Treg cells. It also suppressed Th17 cells and osteoclast formation. These data suggest that STA-21 might be an effective treatment for patients with RA.