OBJECTIVE - To characterize the production and regulation of acidic fibroblast growth factor (aFGF) in type B (fibroblast-like) synoviocytes cultured from both inflammatory and noninflammatory synovial lesions.
METHODS - Immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction were used to examine the expression of aFGF by synovial cells in vitro. Incorporation of 3H-thymidine by NIH3T3 cells in the presence or absence of neutralizing antibody to aFGF was used to measure bioactive aFGF levels in culture media.
RESULTS - Acidic FGF was detected in all synovial cell lines during growth in vitro; however, synoviocytes from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients sustained more abundant production of cytoplasmic and nuclear aFGF. Acidic FGF production persisted after multiple passages and did not depend on the presence of serum. Both RA and noninflammatory synovial cells were competent to release aFGF into the media, even though aFGF lacks a signal peptide. Tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and epidermal growth factor did not increase aFGF expression in vitro; in contrast, transforming growth factor beta1 (TGFbeta1) was found to markedly increase aFGF production by cultured synovial cells.
CONCLUSION - Acidic FGF synthesis and release is a component of synovial cell growth that is markedly increased in RA. TGFbeta1, and not proinflammatory cytokines, is a potent inducer of aFGF production by synoviocytes in vitro. These findings suggest that in RA, interactions between TGFbeta1 and aFGF may contribute to angiogenesis and fibroblast proliferation, potentially independently of inflammatory mediators.