Links between pain and joint degradation are poorly understood. We investigated the role of activation of Toll-like receptors (TLR) by cartilage metabolites in initiating and maintaining the inflammatory loop in OA causing joint destruction.
Synovial membrane explants (SMEs) were prepared from OA patients' synovial biopsies. SMEs were cultured for 10 days under following conditions: culture medium alone, OSM + TNFα, TLR2 agonist - Pam2CSK4, Pam3CSK4 or synthetic aggrecan 32-mer, TLR4 agonist - Lipid A. Release of pro-inflammatory and degradation biomarkers (acMMP3 and C3M) were measured by ELISA in conditioned media along with IL-6. Additionally, human cartilage was digested with ADAMTS-5, with or without the ADAMTS-5 inhibiting nanobody - M6495. Digested cartilage solution (DCS) and synthetic 32-mer were tested for TLR activation in SEAP based TLR reporter assay.
Western blotting confirmed TLR2 and TLR4 in untreated OA synovial biopsies. TLR agonists showed an increase in release of biomarkers - acMMP3 and C3M in SME. Synthetic 32-mer showed no activation in the TLR reporter assay. ADAMTS-5 degraded cartilage fragments activated TLR2 in vitro. Adding M6495 - an anti-ADAMTS-5 inhibiting nanobody®, blocked ADAMTS-5-mediated DCS TLR2 activation.
TLR2 is expressed in synovium of OA patients and their activation by synthetic ligands causes increased tissue turnover. ADAMTS-5-mediated cartilage degradation leads to release of aggrecan fragments which activates the TLR2 receptor in vitro. M6495 suppressed cartilage degradation by ADAMTS-5, limiting the activation of TLR2. In conclusion, pain and joint destruction may be linked to generation of ADAMTS-5 cartilage metabolites.