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Keywords:

  • H2S;
  • interleukin-6;
  • mitogen-activated protein kinases;
  • rheumatoid arthritis

Sulfur bath therapy represents the oldest form of treatment for patients with different types of rheumatic disorders. However, scientific reports about the beneficial effects of this form of therapy are controversial, rare and of poor scientific quality. Also, little is known about the role and underlying molecular mechanisms of H2S. Therefore, this topic encouraged us to investigate the influence of H2S on fibroblasts isolated from the synovial membrane of RA (rheumatoid arthritis) patients. FLSs (fibroblast-like synoviocytes) were treated with different concentrations of an exogenous H2S donor (NaHS). At defined time points, secretion of IL-6 was quantified by ELISA. Activation/deactivation of MAPKs (mitogen-activated protein kinases), p38 and p44/42 MAPK (ERK1/2) were confirmed by Western blot experiments. FLSs constitutively express and secrete large quantities of IL-6 and IL-8. Data provided prove that, in FLSs, constitutive as well as IL-1β-induced expression of IL-6 is transiently and partially down-regulated by the short treatment of cells with low concentrations of NaHS. Another key finding is that H2S deactivates p44/42 MAPK (ERK1/2). Long-term exposure of FLSs to H2S provides stimulatory effects, leading to reinforced activation of p38 MAPK and ERK1/2 accompanied by upregulation of IL-6 expression. Presented data seem of importance for studying (patho-) physiological functions of H2S and also for re-evaluating sulfur spa therapy as one of the oldest forms of therapy for rheumatic disorders.