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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Interleukin-6 regulates anti-arthritic effect of methotrexate via reduction of SLC19A1 expression in a mouse arthritis model

Misato Hashizume1*, Hiroto Yoshida1, Keisuke Tanaka1, Miho Suzuki1, Isao Matsumoto2, Takayuki Sumida2 and Masahiko Mihara1

Author Affiliations

1 Product Research Department, Fuji-Gotemba Research Laboratories, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., 1-135 Komakado, Gotemba, Shizuoka, 412-8513, Japan

2 Division of Clinical Immunology, Doctoral Program in Clinical Science, Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8575, Japan

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R96  doi:10.1186/ar3821

Published: 30 April 2012



Methotrexate (MTX) enters cells via the reduced folate carrier SLC19A1, suggesting that SLC19A1 is associated with the efficacy of MTX. We here examined the relationship between the efficacy of MTX and the expression of SLC19A1 in glucose 6-phosphate isomerase (GPI)-induced arthritis. We found that interleukin-6 (IL-6) regulated the expression of SLC19A1, so we studied the effect of a combination of MTX and anti-mouse IL-6 receptor antibody (MR16-1).


GPI-induced arthritis was induced by intradermal immunization with recombinant GPI. MTX was given from the first day of immunization. Mice were injected once with MR16-1 10 days after immunization. The levels of SLC19A1 mRNA in whole hind limbs and immune cells were measured. Synovial cells from arthritic mice were cultured with cytokines, and cell proliferation and gene expressions were measured.


MTX inhibited the development of GPI-induced arthritis; however, the efficacy of MTX gradually diminished. SLC19A1 expression in immunized mice with arthritis was lower than in intact mice; moreover, SLC19A1 expression in arthritic mice was further decreased when they were treated with MTX. IL-6 was highly expressed in whole hind limbs of arthritic mice. In an in vitro study using synovial cells from arthritic mice, IL-6 + soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R) weakened the anti-proliferative effect of MTX and reduced SLC19A1 expression. Finally, although MR16-1 did not improve arthritis at all when administered on day 10, MTX in combination with MR16-1 more potently reduced the development of arthritis than did MTX alone. When used in combination with MTX, MR16-1 apparently reversed the decrease in SLC19A1 induced by MTX alone.


In the present study, we demonstrated for the first time that IL-6 reduced the efficacy of MTX by decreasing the expression of SLC19A1, which is important for MTX uptake into cells.