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Anti-inflammatory effects of cell-based therapy with tyrosine hydroxylase-positive catecholaminergic cells in experimental arthritis
  1. Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl1,
  2. Silvia Capellino1,2,
  3. Frieder Kees3,
  4. Martin Fleck1,
  5. Torsten Lowin1,
  6. Rainer H Straub1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Regensburg, Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany
  2. 2Division of Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Regensburg, Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rainer H Straub, Laboratory of Experimental Rheumatology and Neuroendocrine Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Regensburg, Biopark I, Josef Engert Str. 9, Regensburg, Bavaria 93053, Germany; rainer.straub{at}


Objectives Studies in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA) and mice with arthritis demonstrated tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) cells in arthritic synovium and parallel loss of sympathetic nerve fibres. The exact function of TH+ cells and mode of TH induction are not known.

Methods Synovial cells of RA/OA were isolated and cultured under normoxic/hypoxic conditions with/without stimulating enzyme cofactors of TH and inhibitors of TH. We studied TH expression and release of cytokines/catecholamines. In vivo function was tested by cell therapy with TH+ neuronal precursor cells (TH+ neuronal cells) in DBA/1 mice with collagen type II-induced arthritis (CIA).

Results Compared with normoxic conditions, hypoxia increased TH protein expression and catecholamine synthesis and decreased release of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) in OA/RA synovial cells. This inhibitory effect on TNF was reversed by TH inhibition with α-methyl-para-tyrosine (αMPT), which was particularly evident under hypoxic conditions. Incubation with specific TH cofactors (tetrahydrobiopterin and Fe2+) increased hypoxia-induced inhibition of TNF, which was also reversed by αMPT. To address a possible clinical role of TH+ cells, murine TH+ neuronal cells were generated from mesenchymal stem cells. TH+ neuronal cells exhibited a typical catecholaminergic phenotype. Adoptive transfer of TH+ neuronal cells markedly reduced CIA in mice, and 6-hydroxydopamine, which depletes TH+ cells, reversed this effect.

Conclusions The anti-inflammatory effect of TH+ neuronal cells on experimental arthritis has been presented for the first time. In RA/OA, TH+ synovial cells have TH-dependent anti-inflammatory capacities, which are augmented under hypoxia. Using generated TH+ neuronal cells might open new avenues for cell-based therapy.

  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Treatment

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