Tyrosine kinases are key mediators of multiple signaling pathways implicated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We previously demonstrated that imatinib mesylate--a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, antineoplastic drug that potently inhibits the tyrosine kinases Abl, c-Kit, platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), and c-Fms--ameliorates murine autoimmune arthritis. However, which of the imatinib-targeted kinases is the principal culprit in disease pathogenesis remains unknown. Here we examine the role of c-Fms in autoimmune arthritis.
We tested the therapeutic efficacy of orally administered imatinib or GW2580, a small molecule that specifically inhibits c-Fms, in three mouse models of RA: collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), anti-collagen antibody-induced arthritis (CAIA), and K/BxN serum transfer-induced arthritis (K/BxN). Efficacy was evaluated by visual scoring of arthritis severity, paw thickness measurements, and histological analysis. We assessed the in vivo effects of imatinib and GW2580 on macrophage infiltration of synovial joints in CIA, and their in vitro effects on macrophage and osteoclast differentiation, and on osteoclast-mediated bone resorption. Further, we determined the effects of imatinib and GW2580 on the ability of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF; the ligand for c-Fms) to prime bone marrow-derived macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factor (TNF) upon subsequent Fc receptor ligation. Finally, we measured M-CSF levels in synovial fluid from patients with RA, osteoarthritis (OA), or psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and levels of total and phosphorylated c-Fms in synovial tissue from patients with RA.
GW2580 was as efficacious as imatinib in reducing arthritis severity in CIA, CAIA, and K/BxN models of RA. Specific inhibition of c-Fms abrogated (i) infiltration of macrophages into synovial joints of arthritic mice; (ii) differentiation of monocytes into macrophages and osteoclasts; (iii) osteoclast-mediated bone resorption; and (iv) priming of macrophages to produce TNF upon Fc receptor stimulation, an important trigger of synovitis in RA. Expression and activation of c-Fms in RA synovium were high, and levels of M-CSF were higher in RA synovial fluid than in OA or PsA synovial fluid.