The circadian regulator Bmal1 in joint mesenchymal cells regulates both joint development and inflammatory arthritis.
Hand LE., Dickson SH., Freemont AJ., Ray DW., Gibbs JE.
BACKGROUND: The circadian clock plays a crucial role in regulating physiology and is important for maintaining immune homeostasis and responses to inflammatory stimuli. Inflammatory arthritis often shows diurnal variation in disease symptoms and disease markers, and it is now established that cellular clocks regulate joint inflammation. The clock gene Bmal1 is critical for maintenance of 24-h rhythms and plays a key role in regulating immune responses, as well as in aging-related processes. Fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) are circadian rhythmic joint mesenchymal cells which are important for maintenance of joint health and play a crucial role in the development of inflammatory arthritis. The aim of this study was to investigate the importance of the joint mesenchymal cell circadian clock in health and disease. METHODS: Mice were generated which lack Bmal1 in Col6a1-expressing cells, targeting mesenchymal cells in the ankle joints. Joints of these animals were assessed by X-ray imaging, whole-mount staining and histology, and the composition of the synovium was assessed by flow cytometry. Arthritis was induced using collagen antibodies. RESULTS: Bmal1 deletion in joint mesenchymal cells rendered the FLS and articular cartilage cells arrhythmic. Targeted mice exhibited significant changes in the architecture of the joints, including chondroid metaplasia (suggesting a switch of connective tissue stem cells towards a chondroid phenotype), reductions in resident synovial macrophages and changes in the basal pro-inflammatory activity of FLS. Loss of Bmal1 in FLS rendered these resident immune cells more pro-inflammatory in response to challenge, leading to increased paw swelling, localised infiltration of mononuclear cells and enhanced cytokine production in a model of arthritis. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the importance of Bmal1 in joint mesenchymal cells in regulating FLS and chondrocyte development. Additionally, we have identified a role for this core clock component for restraining local responses to inflammation and highlight a role for the circadian clock in regulating inflammatory arthritis.