A20 (TNFAIP3) deficiency in myeloid cells triggers erosive polyarthritis resembling rheumatoid arthritis


A20 (TNFAIP3) is a protein that is involved in the negative feedback regulation of NF-κB signaling in response to specific proinflammatory stimuli in different cell types and has been suggested as a susceptibility gene for rheumatoid arthritis. To define the contribution of A20 to rheumatoid arthritis pathology, we generated myeloid-specific A20-deficient mice and show that specific ablation of Tnfaip3 in myeloid cells results in spontaneous development of a severe destructive polyarthritis with many features of rheumatoid arthritis. Myeloid-A20–deficient mice have high levels of inflammatory cytokines in their serum, consistent with a sustained NF-κB activation and higher TNF production by macrophages. Destructive polyarthritis in myeloid A20 knockout mice was TLR4-MyD88 and IL-6 dependent but was TNF independent. Myeloid A20 deficiency also promoted osteoclastogenesis in mice. Together, these observations indicate a critical and cell-specific function for A20 in the etiology of rheumatoid arthritis, supporting the idea of developing A20 modulatory drugs as cell-targeted therapies.

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Figure 1: A20myel-KO mice develop spontaneous destructive arthritis.
Figure 2: A20myel-KO mice have high serum titers of inflammatory and rheumatoid arthritis–associated cytokines.
Figure 3: The development of arthritis in A20myel-KO mice crucially depends on a TLR4-dependent signaling pathway.
Figure 4: Increased osteoclastogenesis from blood leukocytes of A20myel-KO mice.


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We are grateful to I. Förster for donating the LysM-Cre transgenic mice. We thank H. Heremans for providing us with the IL-6 and control antibodies. We thank T. Hochepied for transgenic services, P. Bogaert and E. Parthoens for technical help, A. Bredan for critical reading of the manuscript and D. Huyghebaert and L. Bellen for animal care. L.V. and J.M. are PhD fellows with the Instituut voor Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie (IWT), and J.M. is also supported by an Emmanuel van der Schueren award. C.M.G., L.G. and P.J. are PhD fellows with the Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen (FWO). G.v.L. is supported, as a postdoctoral researcher, by the FWO, by an FWO Odysseus Grant and by the Charcot Foundation. M.K. is supported by an Intra European fellowship from the Marie Curie Actions. M.P. is supported by an FP7 EC program grant Masterswitch (EC-223404). B.N.L. is supported by an FWO Odysseus grant, a European Research Council Starting grant and the Group-ID Multidisciplinary Research Partnership grant of Ghent University. Work in the lab of R.B. and G.v.L. is further supported by research grants from the Interuniversity Attraction Poles program (IAP6/18), the FWO, the Belgian Foundation against Cancer, the Strategic Basis Research program of the IWT, the Centrum voor Gezwelziekten, the Hercules Foundation, and the Concerted Research Actions (GOA) and Group-ID MRP of Ghent University.

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M.M., P.J., J.M., E.V., M.K., M.S., L.G., E.L., C.M.G., L.V., S.S. and G.v.L. performed the experiments. M.M., P.J., C.M.G., S.S., P.M., B.N.L., M.P., D.E., R.B. and G.v.L. analyzed the data. Y.C., L.B., P.M., M.S.-S. and M.P. provided materials. D.E., R.B. and G.v.L. provided ideas and coordinated the project. R.B. and G.v.L. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rudi Beyaert or Geert van Loo.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Matmati, M., Jacques, P., Maelfait, J. et al. A20 (TNFAIP3) deficiency in myeloid cells triggers erosive polyarthritis resembling rheumatoid arthritis. Nat Genet 43, 908–912 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.874

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