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BACKGROUND: We investigated two distinct synovial fibroblast populations that were located preferentially in the lining or sub-lining layers and defined by their expression of either podoplanin (PDPN) or CD248, and explored their ability to undergo self-assembly and transmigration in vivo. METHODS: Synovial fibroblasts (SF) were cultured in vitro and phenotypic changes following stimulation with interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 were examined. To examine the phenotype of SF in vivo, a severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) human-mouse model of cartilage destruction was utilised. RESULTS: SF in the lining layer in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) expressed high levels of PDPN compared to the normal synovium, whereas CD248 expression was restricted to sub-lining layer cells. TNF-α or IL1 stimulation in vitro resulted in an increased expression of PDPN. In contrast, stimulation with TGF-β1 induced CD248 expression. In the SCID human-mouse model, rheumatoid SF recapitulated the expression of PDPN and CD248. Fibroblasts adjacent to cartilage expressed PDPN, and attached to, invaded, and degraded cartilage. PDPN+ CD248- SF preceded the appearance of PDPN- CD248+ cells in contralateral implants. CONCLUSIONS: We have identified two distinct SF populations identified by expression of either PDPN or CD248 which are located within different anatomical compartments of the inflamed synovial membrane. These markers discriminate between SF subsets with distinct biological properties. As PDPN-expressing cells are associated with early fibroblast migration and cartilage erosion in vivo, we propose that PDPN-expressing cells may be an attractive therapeutic target in RA.

Original publication




Journal article


Arthritis Res Ther

Publication Date





Aged, Animals, Antigens, CD, Antigens, Neoplasm, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Cartilage, Articular, Cell Differentiation, Cytokines, Female, Fibroblasts, Flow Cytometry, Heterografts, Humans, Male, Membrane Glycoproteins, Mice, Mice, SCID, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Middle Aged, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Synovial Membrane, Transendothelial and Transepithelial Migration