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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Signalling pathway involved in nitric oxide synthase type II activation in chondrocytes: synergistic effect of leptin with interleukin-1

Miguel Otero1, Rocío Lago1, Francisca Lago2, Juan Jesús Gomez Reino34 and Oreste Gualillo1*

Author Affiliations

1 NEIRID (NeuroEndocrine Interactions in Rheumatology and Inflammatory Diseases) Laboratory, Santiago University Clinical Hospital, Research Laboratory 4, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

2 Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, Santiago University Clinical Hospital, Research Laboratory 1, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

3 Rheumatology Division, Santiago University Clinical Hospital, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

4 Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2005, 7:R581-R591  doi:10.1186/ar1708

Published: 4 March 2005


The objective of the present study was to investigate the effect of leptin, alone or in combination with IL-1, on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) type II activity in vitro in human primary chondrocytes, in the mouse chondrogenic ATDC5 cell line, and in mature and hypertrophic ATDC5 differentiated chondrocytes. For completeness, we also investigated the signalling pathway of the putative synergism between leptin and IL-1. For this purpose, nitric oxide production was evaluated using the Griess colorimetric reaction in culture medium of cells stimulated over 48 hours with leptin (800 nmol/l) and IL-1 (0.025 ng/ml), alone or combined. Specific pharmacological inhibitors of NOS type II (aminoguanidine [1 mmol/l]), janus kinase (JAK)2 (tyrphostin AG490 and Tkip), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K; wortmannin [1, 2.5, 5 and 10 μmol/l] and LY294002 [1, 2.5, 5 and 10 μmol/l]), mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)1 (PD098059 [1, 5, 10, 20 and 30 μmol/l]) and p38 kinase (SB203580 [1, 5, 10, 20 and 30 μmol/l]) were added 1 hour before stimulation. Nitric oxide synthase type II mRNA expression in ATDC5 chondrocytes was investigated by real-time PCR and NOS II protein expression was analyzed by western blot. Our results indicate that stimulation of chondrocytes with IL-1 results in dose-dependent nitric oxide production. In contrast, leptin alone was unable to induce nitric oxide production or expression of NOS type II mRNA or its protein. However, co-stimulation with leptin and IL-1 resulted in a net increase in nitric oxide concentration over IL-1 challenge that was eliminated by pretreatment with the NOS II specific inhibitor aminoguanidine. Pretreatment with tyrphostin AG490 and Tkip (a SOCS-1 mimetic peptide that inhibits JAK2) blocked nitric oxide production induced by leptin/IL-1. Finally, wortmannin, LY294002, PD098059 and SB203580 significantly decreased nitric oxide production. These findings were confirmed in mature and hypertrophic ATDC5 chondrocytes, and in human primary chondrocytes. This study indicates that leptin plays a proinflammatory role, in synergy with IL-1, by inducing NOS type II through a signalling pathway that involves JAK2, PI3K, MEK-1 and p38 kinase.