11 July 2018
Glucocorticoid (GC) therapy is frequently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis due to potent anti-inflammatory actions of GCs. Direct actions of GCs on immune cells were suggested to suppress inflammation.
Define the role of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in stromal cells for suppression of inflammatory arthritis.
Bone marrow chimeric mice lacking the GR in the hematopoietic or stromal compartment, respectively, and mice with impaired GR dimerisation (GR dim) were analysed for their response to dexamethasone (DEX, 1 mg/kg) treatment in serum transfer-induced arthritis (STIA). Joint swelling, cell infiltration (histology), cytokines, cell composition (flow cytometry) and gene expression were analysed and RNASeq of wild type and GR dim primary murine fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) was performed.
GR deficiency in immune cells did not impair GC-mediated suppression of STIA. In contrast, mice with GR-deficient or GR dimerisation-impaired stromal cells were resistant to GC treatment, despite efficient suppression of cytokines. Intriguingly, in mice with impaired GR function in the stromal compartment, GCs failed to stimulate non-classical, non-activated macrophages (Ly6C neg, MHCII neg) and associated anti-inflammatory markers CD163, CD36, AnxA1, MerTK and Axl. Mice with GR deficiency in FLS were partially resistant to GC-induced suppression of STIA. Accordingly, RNASeq analysis of DEX-treated GR dim FLS revealed a distinct gene signature indicating enhanced activity and a failure to reduce macrophage inflammatory protein (Mip)-1α and Mip-1β.
We report a novel anti-inflammatory mechanism of GC action that involves GR dimerisation-dependent gene regulation in non-immune stromal cells, presumably FLS. FLS control non-classical, anti-inflammatory polarisation of macrophages that contributes to suppression of inflammation in arthritis.