Loss of α2-6 sialylation promotes the transformation of synovial fibroblasts into a pro-inflammatory phenotype in arthritis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Yilin Wang
  • Aneesah Khan
  • Aristotelis Antonopoulos
  • Laura Bouché
  • Kun-Ping Li
  • Barbara Tolusso
  • Elisa Gremese
  • Mariola Kurowska-Stolarska
  • Stefano Alivernini
  • Anne Dell
  • Stuart M. Haslam
  • Miguel A. Pineda

Colleges, School and Institutes


In healthy joints, synovial fibroblasts (SFs) provide the microenvironment required to mediate homeostasis, but these cells adopt a pathological function in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Carbohydrates (glycans) on cell surfaces are fundamental regulators of the interactions between stromal and immune cells, but little is known about the role of the SF glycome in joint inflammation. Here we study stromal guided pathophysiology by mapping SFs glycosylation pathways. Combining transcriptomic and glycomic analysis, we show that transformation of fibroblasts into pro-inflammatory cells is associated with glycan remodeling, a process that involves TNF-dependent inhibition of the glycosyltransferase ST6Gal1 and α2-6 sialylation. SF sialylation correlates with distinct functional subsets in murine experimental arthritis and remission stages in human RA. We propose that pro-inflammatory cytokines remodel the SF-glycome, converting the synovium into an under-sialylated and highly pro-inflammatory microenvironment. These results highlight the importance of glycosylation in stromal immunology and joint inflammation.


Original languageEnglish
Article number2343
Number of pages18
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021