Objective: To test the hypothesis that Notch signalling plays a role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to determine whether pharmacological inhibition of Notch signalling with γ-secretase inhibitors can ameliorate the RA disease process in an animal model.
Methods Collagen-induced arthritis was induced in C57BL/6 or Notch antisense transgenic mice by immunisation with chicken type II collagen (CII). C57BL/6 mice were administered with different doses of inhibitors of γ-secretase, an enzyme required for Notch activation, at disease onset or after onset of symptoms. Severity of arthritis was monitored by clinical and histological scores, and in vivo non-invasive near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) images. Micro-CT was used to confirm joint destruction. The levels of CII antibodies and cytokines in serum were determined by ELISA and bead-based cytokine assay. The expression levels of cytokines were studied by quantitative PCR in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts.
Results: The data show that Notch signalling stimulates synoviocytes and accelerates their production of proinflammatory cytokines and immune responses involving the upregulation of IgG1 and IgG2a. Pharmacological inhibition of γ-secretase and antisensemediated knockdown of Notch attenuates the severity of inflammatory arthritis, including arthritis indices, paw thickness, tissue damage and neutrophil infiltration, and reduces the levels of active NF-KB, ICAM-1, proinflammatory cytokines and matrix metalloproteinase-3 activity in the mouse model of RA.
Conclusions: These results suggest that Notch is involved in the pathogenesis of RA and that inhibition of Notch signalling is a novel approach for treating RA.