Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades are involved in inflammation and tissue destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In particular, c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is highly activated in RA fibroblast-like synoviocytes and synovium. However, defining the precise function of this kinase has been difficult because a selective JNK inhibitor has not been available. We now report the use of a novel selective JNK inhibitor and JNK knockout mice to determine the function of JNK in synoviocyte biology and inflammatory arthritis. The novel JNK inhibitor SP600125 (anthra[1,9-cd]pyrazol-6(2H)-one) completely blocked IL-1–induced accumulation of phospho-Jun and induction of c-Jun transcription in synoviocytes. Furthermore, AP-1 binding and collagenase mRNA accumulation were completely suppressed by SP600125. In contrast, complete inhibition of p38 had no effect, and ERK inhibition had only a modest effect. The essential role of JNK was confirmed in cultured synoviocytes from JNK1 knockout mice and JNK2 knockout mice, each of which had a partial defect in IL-1–induced AP-1 activation and collagenase-3 expression. Administration of SP600125 modestly decreased the rat paw swelling in rat adjuvant-induced arthritis. More striking was the near-complete inhibition of radiographic damage that was associated with decreased AP-1 activity and collagenase-3 gene expression. Therefore, JNK is a critical MAPK pathway for IL-1–induced collagenase gene expression in synoviocytes and in joint arthritis, indicating that JNK is an important therapeutic target for RA.
Zuoning Han, David L. Boyle, Lufen Chang, Brydon Bennett, Michael Karin, Li Yang, Anthony M. Manning, Gary S. Firestein