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Int Immunopharmacol. 2013 Dec;17(4):1028-36. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.10.006. Epub 2013 Oct 18.

Anti-invasive effects of celastrol in hypoxia-induced fibroblast-like synoviocyte through suppressing of HIF-1α/CXCR4 signaling pathway.

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Department of Rheumatology, Clinical Medical College, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou 225000, China.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) joints are in a hypoxic condition. Hypoxia-induced migration and invasion of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) are considered to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of RA. Among the key genes upregulated by hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α), CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) plays an important role in FLS migration and invasion. Our previous studies have shown that celastrol exerts anti-arthritic effects by inhibiting FLS migration and invasion under normoxic conditions. However, the effect and molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of celastrol on hypoxia-induced FLS migration and invasion are poorly understood. In the present study, we assessed the effect of celastrol on hypoxia-induced FLS migration and invasion. Results showed that celastrol suppressed hypoxia-induced FLS migration and invasion. In addition, we also found that celastrol inhibited hypoxia-induced CXCR4 expression at both the mRNA and the protein levels in RA-FLSs. Meanwhile, it is revealed that celastrol inhibited the transcriptional activity of CXCR4 under hypoxic conditions by suppressing the binding activity of HIF-1α in the CXCR4 promoter, and blocked hypoxia-induced accumulation of nuclear HIF-1α. Furthermore, treatment with HIF-1α inhibitor reduced the hypoxia-induced expression and transcriptional activity of CXCR4. In conclusion, our results indicate that celastrol inhibits hypoxia-induced migration and invasion via suppression of HIF-1α mediated CXCR4 expression in FLSs under hypoxic conditions. These results provide a strong rationale for further testing and validation of the use of celastrol as a new alternative for using in the treatment of RA.


CXCR4; Celastrol; Fibroblast-like synoviocyte; HIF-1α; Invasion; Rheumatoid arthritis

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