Genetic deficiency of Wnt5a diminishes disease severity in a murine model of rheumatoid arthritis

Susan MacLauchlan, Maria A. Zuriaga, José J. Fuster, Carla M. Cuda, Jennifer Jonason, Fernanda Behzadi, Jennifer Parker Duffen, G. Kenneth Haines, Tamar Aprahamian, Harris Perlman, Kenneth Walsh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints, leading to bone erosion and joint dysfunction. Despite the recent successes of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), there is still clinical need for understanding the development and molecular etiology of RA. Wnts are developmental morphogens whose roles in adult pathology are poorly characterized. Wnt5a is a member of the non-canonical family of Wnts that modulates a wide range of cell processes, including differentiation, migration, and inflammation. Wnt5a has been implicated as a possible contributor to arthritis and it is upregulated in synovial fibroblasts from RA patients. Methods: We investigated the role of endogenous Wnt5a in RA. Tamoxifen-inducible, Wnt5a knockout (Wnt5a cKO) mice and littermate controls were monitored for arthritis development and joint pathology using the K/BxN serum transfer-induced arthritis (STIA) model. To explore a role of Wnt5a in osteoclast fusion, bone marrow-derived monocytes (BMDMs) were differentiated in vitro. Results: Wnt5a cKO mice were resistant to arthritis development compared to control littermates as assessed by ankle thickness and histologic measurements. Some parameters of inflammation were reduced in the Wnt5a cKO mice, including the extent of polymononuclear cell infiltration and extra-articular inflammation. Wnt5a cKO mice also exhibited less cartilage destruction and a reduction in osteoclast activity with concomitant reduction in tartrate-resistant acid phosph *atase (TRAP), cathepsin K (CTSK), macrophage colony-stimulating factor (MCSF), matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)2 and MMP9 in the arthritic joints. Treatment of BMDMs with Wnt5a enhanced osteoclast fusion and increased the expression of dendrocyte-expressed seven transmembrane protein (DCSTAMP) and MMP9, that are necessary for osteoclast formation and activity. Conclusions: These data suggest that Wnt5a modulates the development of arthritis by promoting inflammation and osteoclast fusion, and provide the first mouse genetic evidence of a role for endogenous Wnt5a in autoimmune disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 19 2017


  • Inflammation
  • Osteoclast fusion
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Wnt5a

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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