Fibroblast-like synovial cells (FLS) have multilineage differentiation potential including osteoblasts. We aimed to investigate the role of microRNAs during the osteogenic differentiation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-FLS.
RA-FLS were differentiated in osteogenic medium for 21 days. Osteogenic differentiation was evaluated by alkaline phosphatase (ALP) staining and Alizarin Red staining. MicroRNA (miRNA) array analysis was performed to investigate the differentially expressed miRNAs during osteogenic differentiation. Expression of miR-218-5p (miR-218) during the osteogenic differentiation was determined by quantitative real-time PCR. Transfections with an miR-218 precursor and inhibitor were used to confirm the targets of miR-218 and to analyze the ability of miR-218 to induce osteogenic differentiation. Secreted Dickkopf-1 (DKK1) from FLS transfected with miR-218 precursor/inhibitor or roundabout 1 (ROBO1) knockdown FLS established using ROBO1-small interfering RNA (siRNA) were measured by ELISA.
The miRNA array revealed that 12 miRNAs were upregulated and 24 miRNAs were downregulated after osteogenic differentiation. We observed that the level of miR-218 rose in the early phase of osteogenic differentiation and then decreased. Pro-inflammatory cytokines modified the expression of miR-218. The induction of miR-218 in RA-FLS decreased ROBO1 expression, and promoted osteogenic differentiation. Both the overexpression of miR-218 and the knockdown of ROBO1 in RA-FLS decreased DKK1 secretion.
We identified miR-218 as a crucial inducer of the osteogenic differentiation of RA-FLS. MiR-218 modulates the osteogenic differentiation of RA-FLS through the ROBO1/DKK-1 axis. The induction of the osteogenic differentiation of proliferating RA-FLS through the provision of miR-218 into RA-FLS or by boosting the cellular reservoir of miR-218 might thus become a therapeutic strategy for RA.