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Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jan;63(1):168-79. doi: 10.1002/art.27762.

Contribution of H3K4 methylation by SET-1A to interleukin-1-induced cyclooxygenase 2 and inducible nitric oxide synthase expression in human osteoarthritis chondrocytes.

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Research Centre of the University of Montreal Hospital Centre, Notre-Dame Hospital, and University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



To investigate the role of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) methylation in interleukin-1β (IL-1β)-induced cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression in human osteoarthritic (OA) chondrocytes.


Chondrocytes were stimulated with IL-1, and the expression of iNOS and COX-2 messenger RNA and proteins was evaluated by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis and Western blotting, respectively. H3K4 methylation and the recruitment of the histone methyltransferases SET-1A and MLL-1 to the iNOS and COX-2 promoters were evaluated using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. The role of SET-1A was further evaluated using the methyltransferase inhibitor 5'-deoxy-5'-(methylthio)adenosine (MTA) and gene silencing experiments. SET-1A level in cartilage was determined using immunohistochemistry.


The induction of iNOS and COX-2 expression by IL-1 was associated with H3K4 di- and trimethylation at the iNOS and COX-2 promoters. These changes were temporally correlated with the recruitment of the histone methyltransferase SET-1A, suggesting an implication of SET-1A in these modifications. Treatment with MTA inhibited IL-1-induced H3K4 methylation as well as IL-1-induced iNOS and COX-2 expression. Similarly, SET-1A gene silencing with small interfering RNA prevented IL-1-induced H3K4 methylation at the iNOS and COX-2 promoters as well as iNOS and COX-2 expression. Finally, we showed that the level of SET-1A expression was elevated in OA cartilage as compared with normal cartilage.


These results indicate that H3K4 methylation by SET-1A contributes to IL-1-induced iNOS and COX-2 expression and suggest that this pathway could be a potential target for pharmacologic intervention in the treatment of OA and possibly other arthritic diseases.

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