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Urokinase-type plasminogen activator and arthritis progression: role in systemic disease with immune complex involvement

Andrew D Cook12*, Christine M De Nardo12, Emma L Braine12, Amanda L Turner12, Ross Vlahos12, Kerrie J Way12, S Kaye Beckman12, Jason C Lenzo12 and John A Hamilton12

Author Affiliations

1 Arthritis and Inflammation Research Centre, Department of Medicine, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

2 Cooperative Research Centre for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2010, 12:R37  doi:10.1186/ar2946

Published: 2 March 2010



Urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PA) has been implicated in fibrinolysis, cell migration, latent cytokine activation, cell activation, T-cell activation, and tissue remodeling, all of which are involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Previously, u-PA has been reported to play a protective role in monoarticular arthritis models involving mBSA as the antigen, but a deleterious role in the systemic polyarticular collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) model. The aim of the current study is to determine how u-PA might be acting in systemic arthritis models.


The CIA model and bone marrow chimeras were used to determine the cellular source of u-PA required for the arthritis development. Gene expression of inflammatory and destructive mediators was measured in joint tissue by quantitiative PCR and protein levels by ELISA. The requirement for u-PA in the type II collagen mAb-induced arthritis (CAIA) and K/BxN serum transfer arthritis models was determined using u-PA-/- mice. Neutrophilia was induced in the peritoneal cavity using either ovalbumin/anti-ovalbumin or the complement component C5a.


u-PA from a bone marrow-derived cell was required for the full development of CIA. The disease in u-PA-/- mice reconstituted with bone marrrow from C57BL/6 mice was indistinguishable from that in C57BL/6 mice, in terms of clincal score, histologic features, and protein and gene expression of key mediators. u-PA-/- mice were resistant to both CAIA and K/BxN serum transfer arthritis development. u-PA-/- mice developed a reduced neutrophilia and chemokine production in the peritoneal cavity following ovalbumin/anti-ovalbumin injection; in contrast, the peritoneal neutrophilia in response to C5a was u-PA independent.


u-PA is required for the full development of systemic arthritis models involving immune complex formation and deposition. The cellular source of u-PA required for CIA is bone marrow derived and likely to be of myeloid origin. For immune complex-mediated peritonitis, and perhaps some other inflammatory responses, it is suggested that the u-PA involvement may be upstream of C5a signaling.