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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the 8th Global Arthritis Research Network (GARN) Meeting and 1st Bio-Rheumatology International Congress (BRIC)

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Cigarette smoke downregulates HDAC2 in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts

Anna Engler1*, Astrid Jüngel1, Christoph Kolling2, Beat A Michel1, Renate Gay1, Steffen Gay1 and Caroline Ospelt1

  • * Corresponding author: Anna Engler

Author Affiliations

1 Center of Experimental Rheumatology, University Hospital Zurich and Zurich Center of Integrative Human Physiology (ZIHP), Zurich, Switzerland

2 Schulthess Clinic, Zurich, Switzerland

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14(Suppl 1):P11  doi:10.1186/ar3612

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:9 February 2012

© 2012 Engler et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cigarette smoking has been shown as major environmental risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Epidemiological studies indicate an association of cigarette smoking with development of RA [1,2], although molecular mechanisms remain unknown. The aim of this study is to analyze the influence of cigarette smoke on the gene expression regulated by histone deacetylases (HDACs) in RA synovial fibroblasts (RASF).


RASF obtained from patients undergoing joint replacement surgery were stimulated with freshly prepared cigarette smoke extract (CSE) for 24 hours. Expression of HDACs was measured at the mRNA level by Real-time TaqMan and SYBR green PCR and at the protein level by immunoblot analysis. Global histone 3 (H3) acetylation was analyzed by immunoblot.


Stimulation of RASF (n = 8-10) with CSE significantly enhanced the expression of HDAC1 (x-fold: 2.0 ± 0.4; p = 0.04), HDAC2 (1.9 ± 0.3; p = 0.02) and HDAC3 (2.4 ± 0.4; p = 0.01) at the mRNA level while the expression of HDAC 4-11 remained unchanged. On the protein level, expression of HDAC1 and HDAC3 were not altered, whereas the expression of HDAC2 protein was decreased in CSE stimulated RASF. No measurable changes in global acetylation of H3 were induced by CSE in RASF (n = 6).


CSE specifically downregulates the expression of HDAC2 in RASF. Differential regulation of HDAC2 at the mRNA and protein level points to post-transcriptional degradation mechanisms induced by smoking. Even though global H3 acetylation was not changed by CSE, decreased HDAC2 levels might be associated with hyper-acetylation and thus increased expression of specific HDAC2 regulated genes.


  1. Bergstrom U, Jacobsson LT, Nilsson JA, Berglund G, Turesson C: Pulmonary dysfunction, smoking, socioeconomic status and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

    Rheumatology (Oxford) 2011, 50:2005-2013. Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  2. Hutchinson D, Shepstone L, Moots R, Lear JT, Lynch MP: Heavy cigarette smoking is strongly associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), particularly in patients without a family history of RA.

    Ann Rheum Dis 2001, 60:223-227. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL