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INTRODUCTION: Dysregulated angiogenesis is implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To provide a more profound understanding of arthritis-associated angiogenesis, we evaluated the expression of angiogenesis-modulating genes at onset, peak and declining phases of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a well-established mouse model for RA. METHODS: CIA was induced in DBA/1 mice with type II collagen. Functional capillary density in synovial tissue of knee joints was determined by intravital fluorescence microscopy. To assess the ability of arthritic joint homogenates to induce angiogenesis, an endothelial chemotaxis assay and an in vivo matrigel plug assay were employed. The temporal expression profile of angiogenesis-related genes in arthritic paws was analysed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR using an angiogenesis focused array as well as gene specific PCR. Finally, we investigated the therapeutic effect of a monoclonal antibody specifically blocking the binding of VEGF to neuropilin (NRP)-1. RESULTS: Although arthritic paw homogenates displayed angiogenic activity in vitro and in vivo, and synovia of arthritic paws appeared highly vascularised on histological examination, the functional capillary density in arthritic knee synovia was significantly decreased, whereas capillary diameter was increased. Of the 84 genes analysed, 41 displayed a differential expression in arthritic paws as compared to control paws. Most significant alterations were seen at the peak of clinical arthritis. Increased mRNA expression could be observed for VEGF receptors (Flt-1, Flk-1, Nrp-1, Nrp-2), as well as for midkine, hepatocyte growth factor, insulin-like growth factor-1 and angiopoietin-1. Signalling through NRP-1 accounted in part for the chemotactic activity for endothelial cells observed in arthritic paw homogenates. Importantly, therapeutic administration of anti-NRP1B antibody significantly reduced disease severity and progression in CIA mice. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings confirm that the arthritic synovium in murine CIA is a site of active angiogenesis, but an altered balance in the expression of angiogenic factors seems to favour the formation of non-functional and dilated capillaries. Furthermore, our results validate NRP-1 as a key player in the pathogenesis of CIA, and support the VEGF/VEGF receptor pathway as a potential therapeutic target in RA.

Original publication

DOI

10.1186/ar3922

Type

Journal article

Journal

Arthritis Res Ther

Publication Date

20/07/2012

Volume

14

Keywords

Animals, Arthritis, Experimental, Biomarkers, Cells, Cultured, Female, Gene Expression Profiling, Humans, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Inbred DBA, Neovascularization, Pathologic