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Korean J Intern Med. 2019 Jan;34(1):210-219. doi: 10.3904/kjim.2016.329. Epub 2017 Mar 13.

N-acetyl-l-cysteine controls osteoclastogenesis through regulating Th17 differentiation and RANKL in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Konkuk University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Convergent Research Consortium for Immunologic Disease, College of Medicine, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.



This study aimed to determine the regulatory role of N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant, in interleukin 17 (IL-17)-induced osteoclast differentiation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


After RA synovial fibroblasts were stimulated by IL-17, the expression and production of receptor activator of nuclear factor κ-B ligand (RANKL) was determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Osteoclastogenesis was also determined after co-cultures of IL-17-stimulated RA synovial fibroblasts, Th17 cells and various concentrations of NAC with monocytes. After human peripheral CD4+ T cells were cultured with NAC under Th17 condition, IL-17, interferon γ, IL-4, Foxp3, RANKL, and IL-2 expression and production was determined by flow cytometry or ELISA.


When RA synovial fibroblasts were stimulated by IL-17, IL-17 stimulated the production of RANKL, and NAC reduced the IL-17-induced RANKL production in a dose-dependent manner. NAC decreased IL-17-activated phosphorylation of mammalian target of rapamycin, c-Jun N-terminal kinase, and inhibitor of κB. When human peripheral blood CD14+ monocytes were cultured with macrophage colony-stimulating factor and IL-17 or RANKL, osteoclasts were differentiated, and NAC reduced the osteoclastogenesis. After human peripheral CD4+ T cells were co-cultured with IL-17-pretreated RA synovial fibroblasts or Th17 cells, NAC reduced their osteoclastogenesis. Under Th17 polarizing condition, NAC decreased Th17 cell differentiation and IL-17 and RANKL production.


NAC inhibits the IL-17-induced RANKL production in RA synovial fibroblasts and IL-17-induced osteoclast differentiation. NAC also reduced Th17 polarization. NAC could be a supplementary therapeutic option for inflammatory and bony destructive processes in RA.


Acetylcysteine; Arthritis, rheumatoid; Interleukin-17; Osteogenesis; RANK ligand

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