Immunomodulatory effects of Simvastatin in Toll-like receptor-2 stimulated Rheumatoid arthritis synoviocytes

Author(s): Mohammad Saeed, Zeiyad Al-Karakooly, Nawab Ali and Robert A. Ortmann

Fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) are major effector cells in Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2) activation of FLS plays a key role in RA pathogenesis. Recently, statins have been shown to modulate RA. We investigated the immunomodulatory effects of simvastatin (SMV) in vitro, in FLS cell lines from control and RA subjects, in the presence of TLR2 activation. Normal and RA FLS cultures (1x105 cells/well) were treated with SMV then activated with TLR2 ligand (Pam3CSK4 100μg/ml) for 24-hours. SMV caused dose-dependent cytotoxicity in both cell lines as assessed by Alamar-blue assay and increased ROS production measured by flow cytometry. Gene expression of anti-oxidants including GSR, TXNRD1, PRDX1, SOD2 and MT3 was upregulated. BNIP3 expression was increased 2200-fold in RA-FLS after SMV/TLR2 treatment pointing to apoptosis as a cause of observed cytotoxicity. Apoptosis increased in both cell lines with SMV to 25%. Akt decreased dose- dependently in RA FLS assessed by western blots. IP-1, IP-2 and IP3 decreased with SMV/TLR2 treatment indicating cell survival while IL-6 increased dose-dependently. Thus, SMV induces apoptosis in FLS by upregulating BNIP3 and inhibiting Akt. FLS react to survive by increasing IL-6, decreasing IP-1 and IP-2 and upregulating anti-oxidant genes. SMV has immunomodulatory properties and may be used in RA as adjunctive therapy in combination with other more potent disease-modifying medications.

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