Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory and destructive joint disease characterized by overexpression of pro-inflammatory/pro-destructive mediators, whose regulation has been the focus of our previous studies. Since the expression of these proteins commonly depends on AP-1, the expression of the AP-1-forming subunits cJun, JunB, JunD, and cFos was assessed in synovial membrane (SM) samples of RA, osteoarthritis (OA), joint trauma (JT), and normal controls (NC) using ELISA and qRT-PCR. With respect to an observed discrepancy between mRNA and protein levels, the expression of the mRNA stability-modifying factors AU-rich element RNA-binding protein (AUF)-1, tristetraprolin (TTP), and human antigen R (HuR) was measured. JunB and JunD protein expression was significantly higher in RA-SM compared to OA and/or NC. By contrast, jun
mRNA expression was significantly (cjun
) or numerically decreased (junB, junD, cfos
) in RA and OA compared to JT and/or NC. Remarkably, TTP and HuR were also affected by discrepancies between their mRNA and protein levels, since they were significantly decreased at the mRNA level in RA versus NC, but significantly or numerically increased at the protein level when compared to JT and NC. Discrepancies between the mRNA and protein expression for Jun/Fos and TTP/HuR suggest broad alterations of post-transcriptional processes in the RA-SM. In this context, increased levels of mRNA-destabilizing TTP may contribute to the low levels of jun
mRNA, whereas abundant mRNA-stabilizing HuR may augment translation of the remaining mRNA into protein with potential consequences for the composition of the resulting AP-1 complexes and the expression of AP-1-dependent genes in RA.
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