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Expression and function of EZH2 in synovial fibroblasts: epigenetic repression of the Wnt inhibitor SFRP1 in rheumatoid arthritis
  1. Michelle Trenkmann1,
  2. Matthias Brock1,2,
  3. Renate E Gay1,
  4. Christoph Kolling3,
  5. Rudolf Speich2,
  6. Beat A Michel1,
  7. Steffen Gay1,
  8. Lars C Huber1,2
  1. 1Center of Experimental Rheumatology, University Hospital Zurich and Zurich Center of Integrative Human Physiology (ZIHP), Zurich, Switzerland
  2. 2Clinic and Policlinic of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  3. 3Schulthess Clinic Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Michelle Trenkmann, Center of Experimental Rheumatology, University Hospital Zurich, Gloriastrasse 23, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland; michelle.trenkmann{at}


Objectives To study the expression, regulation and function of the histone methyltransferase enhancer of zeste homologue 2 (EZH2) in synovial fibroblasts (SF) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods SF were obtained from RA and OA patients undergoing joint surgery. Expression levels were assessed by quantitative real-time PCR and western blot. Kinase inhibitors and reporter gene assays were employed to study signalling pathways. Functional analyses included EZH2 overexpression by plasmid transfection and gene silencing by small interfering RNA. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assay was used to analyse histone methylation within distinct promoter regions.

Results By studying the expression and function of EZH2 in SF the authors found that EZH2 is overexpressed in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) and further induced by tumour necrosis factor alpha through the nuclear factor kappa B and Jun kinase pathways. As a target gene of EZH2 the authors identified secreted frizzled-related protein 1 (SFRP1), an inhibitor of Wnt signalling, which is associated with the activation of RASF, and show that SFRP1 expression correlates with the occupation of its promoter with activating and silencing histone marks.

Conclusions These data strongly suggest that the chronic inflammatory environment of the RA joint induces EZH2 and thus might cause changes in the epigenetic programmes of SF.

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  • Funding This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF-32000-116842), Schwyzer Foundation, Autocure FP6, Masterswitch FP7 and IAR Epalinges programmes.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the local ethics committee of the Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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