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Open Access Research article

Gene expression profiling and functional analysis of angiogenic markers in murine collagen-induced arthritis

Yvonne Raatz12*, Saleh Ibrahim3, Marc Feldmann14 and Ewa M Paleolog14

Author affiliations

1 Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Imperial College London, 65 Aspenlea Road, London W6 8LH, UK

2 Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, Medical Faculty of the Leipzig University, Johannisallee 30, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

3 Department of Dermatology, University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, D-23538 Lübeck, Germany

4 Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford, 65 Aspenlea Road, London W6 8LH, UK

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R169  doi:10.1186/ar3922

Published: 20 July 2012

Abstract

Introduction

Dysregulated angiogenesis is implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To provide a more profound understanding of arthritis-associated angiogenesis, we evaluated the expression of angiogenesis-modulating genes at onset, peak and declining phases of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a well-established mouse model for RA.

Methods

CIA was induced in DBA/1 mice with type II collagen. Functional capillary density in synovial tissue of knee joints was determined by intravital fluorescence microscopy. To assess the ability of arthritic joint homogenates to induce angiogenesis, an endothelial chemotaxis assay and an in vivo matrigel plug assay were employed. The temporal expression profile of angiogenesis-related genes in arthritic paws was analysed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR using an angiogenesis focused array as well as gene specific PCR. Finally, we investigated the therapeutic effect of a monoclonal antibody specifically blocking the binding of VEGF to neuropilin (NRP)-1.

Results

Although arthritic paw homogenates displayed angiogenic activity in vitro and in vivo, and synovia of arthritic paws appeared highly vascularised on histological examination, the functional capillary density in arthritic knee synovia was significantly decreased, whereas capillary diameter was increased. Of the 84 genes analysed, 41 displayed a differential expression in arthritic paws as compared to control paws. Most significant alterations were seen at the peak of clinical arthritis. Increased mRNA expression could be observed for VEGF receptors (Flt-1, Flk-1, Nrp-1, Nrp-2), as well as for midkine, hepatocyte growth factor, insulin-like growth factor-1 and angiopoietin-1. Signalling through NRP-1 accounted in part for the chemotactic activity for endothelial cells observed in arthritic paw homogenates. Importantly, therapeutic administration of anti-NRP1B antibody significantly reduced disease severity and progression in CIA mice.

Conclusions

Our findings confirm that the arthritic synovium in murine CIA is a site of active angiogenesis, but an altered balance in the expression of angiogenic factors seems to favour the formation of non-functional and dilated capillaries. Furthermore, our results validate NRP-1 as a key player in the pathogenesis of CIA, and support the VEGF/VEGF receptor pathway as a potential therapeutic target in RA.