Comparison of cathepsins K and S expression within the rheumatoid and osteoarthritic synovium

Wu-Shiun Hou, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Weijie Li, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Gernot Keyszer, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
Ekkehard Weber, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
Roger Levy, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Michael J. Klein, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Ellen M. Gravallese, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Steven R. Goldring, Harvard Medical School
Dieter Bromme, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

At the time of publication, Ellen Gravallese was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To determine and compare the expression of cathepsins K and S proteins in joints with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) and to determine the effect of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) on the expression of cathepsin K in fibroblast-like synoviocytes.

METHOD: Expression and localization of cathepsins K and S were determined by immunohistochemistry in the synovium of 10 RA- and 8 OA-affected joints. Northern and Western blot analyses were performed to analyze cathepsin K and S expression in primary fibroblast-like synoviocyte cultures from RA and OA patients. The effect of IL-1 beta and TNF alpha on the expression and secretion of cathepsin K in primary cultures of synoviocytes was determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis. Staining of in situ activity was used to identify active cathepsin K enzyme in primary synovial fibroblast cultures.

RESULTS: Cathepsin K and S protein expression was identified in the synovium from patients with RA and OA. Cathepsin K protein was localized in synovial fibroblasts, stromal multinucleated giant cells, and, to a lesser degree, in CD68+ macrophage-like synoviocytes. Of note is the expression of cathepsin K in synovial fibroblasts and mononuclear macrophage-like cells at sites of cartilage erosion in RA and in interdigitating cells of lymphocyte-rich areas. In contrast, cathepsin S expression was restricted to CD68+ macrophage-like synoviocytes, interdigitating cells, and endothelial cells of blood vessels. Cathepsin K protein expression in the interstitial areas and perivascular regions of RA-derived synovial specimens was 2-5 times higher than in OA samples (P < 0.001), whereas the expression of cathepsin S did not significantly differ in these diseases. Cathepsin K expression levels in normal synovium were low and restricted to fibroblast-like cells. Of note, cathepsin K also was expressed in repairing fibrocartilage in 1 OA specimen. Primary cell cultures of RA- and OA-derived synovial fibroblasts expressed comparable amounts of cathepsin K at the transcript and protein levels. Both cell cultures secreted mature cathepsin K as well as procathepsin K, and expressed active cathepsin K in cytosolic vesicles. In contrast, neither RA- nor OA-derived fibroblasts expressed detectable levels of cathepsin S. IL-1 beta and TNF alpha stimulated the transcript (7-8-fold) and protein expression (2-fold) of cathepsin K (P < 0.05) in primary synovial fibroblast cultures, without differences in expression between RA- and OA-derived synovial fibroblasts.

CONCLUSION: The presence of cathepsin K polypeptide in synovial fibroblasts and macrophage-like cells in normal, OA, and RA synovia suggests a constitutive expression of this protease and a role in synovial remodeling. The comparable increase in cathepsin K expression after stimulation of RA- and OA-derived synovial fibroblasts with IL-1 beta and TNF alpha further suggests that the expression of cathepsin K is independent of cellular alterations leading to the invasive phenotype of RA-synovial fibroblasts. However, the overexpression of cathepsin K in RA synovia due to an increase in the number of cathepsin K-expressing cells identifies this enzyme as a candidate protease for the pathologic degradation of articular cartilage. Cathepsin S expression in macrophage-like synoviocytes suggests dual activity in antigen presentation and matrix degradation in the inflamed synovia.