Extracellular vesicles in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

Joseph Withrow, Cameron Murphy, Yutao Liu, Monte Hunter, Sadanand Fulzele, Mark W. Hamrick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are both debilitating diseases that cause significant morbidity in the US population. Extracellular vesicles (EVs), including exosomes and microvesicles, are now recognized to play important roles in cell-to-cell communication by transporting various proteins, microRNAs (miRNAs), and mRNAs. EV-derived proteins and miRNAs impact cell viability and cell differentiation, and are likely to play a prominent role in the pathophysiology of both OA and RA. Some of the processes by which these membrane-bound vesicles can alter joint tissue include extracellular matrix degradation, cell-to-cell communication, modulation of inflammation, angiogenesis, and antigen presentation. For example, EVs from IL-1β-stimulated fibroblast-like synoviocytes have been shown to induce osteoarthritic changes in chondrocytes. RA models have shown that EVs stimulated with inflammatory cytokines are capable of inducing apoptosis resistance in T cells, presenting antigen to T cells, and causing extracellular damage with matrix-degrading enzymes. EVs derived from rheumatoid models have also been shown to induce secretion of COX-2 and stimulate angiogenesis. Additionally, there is evidence that synovium-derived EVs may be promising biomarkers of disease in both OA and RA. The characterization of EVs in the joint space has also opened up the possibility for delivery of small molecules. This article reviews current knowledge on the role of EVs in both RA and OA, and their potential role as therapeutic targets for modulation of these debilitating diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number286
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Chondrocyte
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Fibroblast-like synoviocyte
  • IL-1β
  • MMP-13
  • MicroRNA
  • TNF-α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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