Extracellular sulfatase-2 (Sulf-2) influences receptor–ligand binding and subsequent signaling by chemokines and growth factors, yet Sulf-2 remains unexplored in inflammatory cytokine signaling in the context of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In the present study, we characterized Sulf-2 expression in RA and investigated its potential role in TNF-α-induced synovial inflammation using primary human RA synovial fibroblasts (RASFs). Sulf-2 expression was significantly higher in serum and synovial tissues from patients with RA and in synovium and serum from hTNFtg mice. RNA sequencing analysis of TNF-α-stimulated RASFs showed that Sulf-2 siRNA modulated ~2500 genes compared to scrambled siRNA. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis of RNA sequencing data identified Sulf-2 as a primary target in fibroblasts and macrophages in RA. Western blot, ELISA, and qRT‒PCR analyses confirmed that Sulf-2 knockdown reduced the TNF-α-induced expression of ICAM1, VCAM1, CAD11, PDPN, CCL5, CX3CL1, CXCL10, and CXCL11. Signaling studies identified the protein kinase C-delta (PKCδ) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathways as key in the TNF-α-mediated induction of proteins related to cellular adhesion and invasion. Knockdown of Sulf-2 abrogated TNF-α-induced RASF proliferation. Sulf-2 knockdown with siRNA and inhibition by OKN-007 suppressed the TNF-α-induced phosphorylation of PKCδ and JNK, thereby suppressing the nuclear translocation and DNA binding activity of the transcription factors AP-1 and NF-κBp65 in human RASFs. Interestingly, Sulf-2 expression positively correlated with the expression of TNF receptor 1, and coimmunoprecipitation assays demonstrated the binding of these two proteins, suggesting they exhibit crosstalk in TNF-α signaling. This study identified a novel role of Sulf-2 in TNF-α signaling and the activation of RA synoviocytes, providing the rationale for evaluating the therapeutic targeting of Sulf-2 in preclinical models of RA.
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The authors thank the Cooperative Human Tissue Network and National Disease Research Interchange for providing human synovial tissue specimens.
This study was supported by the NIH/NIAMS F31 Fellowship AR-076204–01 (RJS), Rheumatology Research Foundation Graduate Student Preceptorship Award (RJS/SA), and NIH/NIAMS R01 Grant AR-072615 (SA). Research by SUH and JV was made possible through the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Honors Research Program.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Siegel, R.J., Singh, A.K., Panipinto, P.M. et al. Extracellular sulfatase-2 is overexpressed in rheumatoid arthritis and mediates the TNF-α-induced inflammatory activation of synovial fibroblasts. Cell Mol Immunol 19, 1185–1195 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41423-022-00913-x
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