Changes in cellular metabolism have been implicated in mediating the activated fibroblast phenotype in a number of chronic inflammatory disorders, including pulmonary fibrosis, renal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The aim of this study was therefore to characterise the metabolic profile of synovial joint fluid and synovial fibroblasts under both basal and inflammatory conditions in a cohort of obese and normal-weight hip OA patients. Furthermore, we sought to ascertain whether modulation of a metabolic pathway in OA synovial fibroblasts could alter their inflammatory activity. Synovium and synovial fluid was obtained from hip OA patients, who were either of normal-weight or obese and were undergoing elective joint replacement surgery. The synovial fluid metabolome was determined by 1H NMR spectroscopy. The metabolic profile of isolated synovial fibroblasts in vitro was characterised by lactate secretion, oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and extracellular acidification rate (ECAR) using the Seahorse XF Analyser. The effects of a small molecule pharmacological inhibitor and siRNA targeted at glutaminase-1 (GLS1) were assessed to probe the role of glutamine metabolism in OA synovial fibroblast function. Obese OA patient synovial fluid (n = 5) exhibited a different metabotype, compared to normal-weight patient fluid (n = 6), with significantly increased levels of 1, 3-dimethylurate, N-Nitrosodimethylamine, succinate, tyrosine, pyruvate, glucose, glycine and lactate, and enrichment of the glutamine–glutamate metabolic pathway, which correlated with increasing adiposity. In vitro, isolated obese OA fibroblasts exhibited greater basal lactate secretion and aerobic glycolysis, and increased mitochondrial respiration when stimulated with pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα, compared to fibroblasts from normal-weight patients. Inhibition of GLS1 attenuated the TNFα-induced expression and secretion of IL-6 in OA synovial fibroblasts. These findings suggest that altered cellular metabolism underpins the inflammatory phenotype of OA fibroblasts, and that targeted inhibition of glutamine–glutamate metabolism may provide a route to reducing the pathological effects of joint inflammation in OA patients who are obese.
- synovial fibroblast