Open Access Open Badges Research article

A cell-cycle independent role for p21 in regulating synovial fibroblast migration in rheumatoid arthritis

James M Woods1*, Karolina Klosowska1, Darrin J Spoden1, Nataliya G Stumbo1, Douglas J Paige1, John C Scatizzi2, Michael V Volin1, Malathi S Rao1 and Harris Perlman2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Midwestern University, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA

2 Department of Molecular Microbiology-Immunology, Saint Louis University, School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63104, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2006, 8:R113  doi:10.1186/ar1999

Published: 17 July 2006


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by synovial hyperplasia and destruction of cartilage and bone. The fibroblast-like synoviocyte (FLS) population is central to the development of pannus by migrating into cartilage and bone. We demonstrated previously that expression of the cell cycle inhibitor p21 is significantly reduced in RA synovial lining, particularly in the FLS. The aim of this study was to determine whether reduced expression of p21 in FLS could alter the migratory behavior of these cells. FLS were isolated from mice deficient in p21 (p21(-/-)) and were examined with respect to growth and migration. p21(-/-) and wild-type (WT) FLS were compared with respect to migration towards chemoattractants found in RA synovial fluid in the presence and absence of cell cycle inhibitors. Restoration of p21 expression was accomplished using adenoviral infection. As anticipated from the loss of a cell cycle inhibitor, p21(-/-) FLS grow more rapidly than WT FLS. In examining migration towards biologically relevant RA synovial fluid, p21(-/-) FLS display a marked increase (3.1-fold; p < 0.05) in migration compared to WT cells. Moreover, this effect is independent of the cell cycle since chemical inhibitors that block the cell cycle have no effect on migration. In contrast, p21 is required to repress migration as restoration of p21 expression in p21(-/-) FLS reverses this effect. Taken together, these data suggest that p21 plays a novel role in normal FLS, namely to repress migration. Loss of p21 expression that occurs in RA FLS may contribute to excessive invasion and subsequent joint destruction.