OBJECTIVE: To characterise the effect of interleukin-4 (IL-4) on the biosynthesis of cyclo-oxygenases I (COX I) and II (COX II), the rate limiting enzymes of the synthesis of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), in freshly prepared rheumatoid synovial cells. METHODS: Adherent synovial cells were obtained from rheumatoid synovium by collagenase digestion. The concentrations of PGE2 in culture supernatants were determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. The protein and mRNA concentrations of COX I and COX II were determined by Western blotting and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, respectively. RESULTS: Freshly prepared synovial cells produced large amounts of PGE2. They also showed increased gene expression of COX I and COX II, and synthesised these proteins. IL-4 had suppressive effects on the production of PGE2 by untreated or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulated synovial cells. In addition, IL-4 inhibited the biosynthesis of COX II at the mRNA level. In contrast, it did not modify the protein concentration of COX I. In tests of cell specificity, IL-4 did not reduce the mRNA concentration of COX II in interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) stimulated cultured synovial fibroblasts at passages 3-6, but it reduced considerably the mRNA concentrations of COX II in an LPS or IL-1 alpha stimulated U937 monocyte/macrophage cell line. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that IL-4 might inhibit overproduction of PGE2 in rheumatoid synovia via selective inhibition of the biosynthesis of COX II, and that this inhibition might be specific to macrophage-like synovial cells.
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