Journal of innate immunity

Fibronectin III 13-14 domains induce joint damage via Toll-like receptor 4 activation and synergize with interleukin-1 and tumour necrosis factor.

PMID 21997473


Cartilage loss is a feature of chronic arthritis. It results from degradation of the extracellular matrix which is composed predominantly of aggrecan and type II collagen. Extracellular matrix degradation is mediated by aggrecanases and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Recently, a number of endogenous matrix molecules, including fibronectin (FN), have been implicated in mediating cartilage degradation. We were interested in studying the C-terminal heparin-binding region of FN since it mediates aggrecan and type II collagen breakdown in cartilage, but the specific FN domains responsible for proteolytic enzyme activity and their receptors in cartilage are unknown. In this study, the ability of recombinant FN domains to induce cartilage breakdown was tested. We found that the FN III 13-14 domains in the C-terminal heparin-binding region of FN are potent inducers of aggrecanase activity in articular cartilage. In murine studies, the FN III 13-14-induced aggrecanase activity was inhibited in Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) knockout mice but not wild-type mice. FN III 13-14 domains also synergized with the known catabolic cytokines interleukin-1α and tumour necrosis factor and induced secretion of MMP-1, MMP-3, gp38 and serum amyloid-like protein A in chondrocytes. Our studies provide a mechanistic link between the innate immune receptor TLR4 and sterile arthritis induced by the FN III 13-14 domains of the endogenous matrix molecule FN.