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Open Access Research article

Slit3 inhibits Robo3-induced invasion of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis

Alexandra E Denk1, Simone Kaufmann1, Klaus Stark2, Jörg Schedel3, Torsten Lowin3, Thomas Schubert1 and Anja K Bosserhoff1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pathology, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

2 Department of Internal Medicine II, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

3 Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2010, 12:R45  doi:10.1186/ar2955

Published: 18 March 2010

Abstract

Introduction

The repellent factor family of Slit molecules has been described to have repulsive function in the developing nervous system on growing axons expressing the Robo receptors. However, until today no data are available on whether these repellent factors are involved in the regulation of synovial fibroblast (SF) activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods

mRNA expression in primary synovial fibroblasts was quantified by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and protein expression was measured by fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis. Different functional assays were performed with rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF): proliferation, migration and a novel in-vitro cartilage destruction assay.

Results

First, we found increased expression of Robo3 expression in RASF compared to normal SF. Interestingly, analysis of data from a recently published genome-wide association study suggests a contribution of ROBO3 gene polymorphisms to susceptibility of RA. Functional assays performed with RASF revealed induction of migration and cartilage destruction by Robo3 and increased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)1 and MMP3 expression. Treatment of RASF in early passages with Slit3 led to inhibition of migration whereas RASF in later passages, having reduced Robo3 expression in cell culture, were not inhibited by Slit3 treatment. Here, reduction of Robo3 expression from passage 3 to 10 might reflect an important step in losing repulsive activity of Slit3.

Conclusions

Taken together, our data showed that deregulation of the Robo3 receptor in synovial fibroblasts in RA correlates with aggressiveness of the fibroblasts. Slit3 reduces the migratory activity of synovial cells from patients with RA, potentially by repulsion of the cells in analogy to the neuronal system. Further studies will be necessary to prove Slit activity in vivo.