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OBJECTIVE: In rheumatoid arthritis, the enzyme 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) is highly expressed at sites of inflammation, where it converts inactive glucocorticoids (GC) to their active counterparts. In conditions of GC excess it has been shown to be a critical regulator of muscle wasting and bone loss. Here we examine the contribution of 11β-HSD1 to the pathology of persistent chronic inflammatory disease. METHODS: To determine the contribution of 11β-HSD1 to joint inflammation, destruction and systemic bone loss associated with persistent inflammatory arthritis, we generated mice with global and mesenchymal specific 11β-HSD1 deletions in the TNF-transgenic (TNF-tg) model of chronic polyarthritis. Disease severity was determined by clinical scoring. Histology was assessed in formalin fixed sections and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis of synovial tissue was performed. Local and systemic bone loss were measured by micro computed tomography (micro-CT). Measures of inflammation and bone metabolism were assessed in serum and in tibia mRNA. RESULTS: Global deletion of 11β-HSD1 drove an enhanced inflammatory phenotype, characterised by florid synovitis, joint destruction and systemic bone loss. This was associated with increased pannus invasion into subchondral bone, a marked polarisation towards pro-inflammatory M1 macrophages at sites of inflammation and increased osteoclast numbers. Targeted mesenchymal deletion of 11β-HSD1 failed to recapitulate this phenotype suggesting that 11β-HSD1 within leukocytes mediate its protective actions in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate a fundamental role for 11β-HSD1 in the suppression of synovitis, joint destruction, and systemic bone loss. Whilst a role for 11β-HSD1 inhibitors has been proposed for metabolic complications in inflammatory diseases, our study suggests that this approach would greatly exacerbate disease severity.

Original publication




Journal article


J autoimmun

Publication Date





104 - 113


11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1, Animals, Arthritis, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Bone Resorption, Chronic Disease, Disease Models, Animal, Glucocorticoids, Humans, Inflammation, Joints, Macrophages, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Osteoclasts, Synovitis, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha