Study of the mechanism underlying hsa-miR338-3p downregulation to promote fibrosis of the synovial tissue in osteoarthritis patients

  • Changzhi Song
  • Xiaozu XuEmail author
  • Ya Wu
  • Biao Ji
  • Xiaoye Zhou
  • Ling Qin
Original Article


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease characterized by the degradation of joint cartilage, the formation of osteophyma at joint margins, and synovial changes. Whereas lesions of the joint cartilage were the key point of the research and treatment of osteoarthritis before, a recent study showed that the synovium plays a crucial role in the pathological progress of OA. The inflammatory environment in the joints of OA patients always results in the overactivation of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs), which produce a multitude of inflammatory factors and media, not only leading to the degradation and injury of the cartilage tissue and promoting the development of osteoarthritis but also resulting in synovial fibrosis and joint stiffness. Therefore, the synovium has attracted increasing attention in the research of OA, and the study of the mechanism of activation of FLSs and the fibrosis of joint synovium may shed new light on OA treatment. By using high-throughput screening, we have identified that hsa-miR338-3p is significantly downregulated in the synovial tissue and joint effusion from OA patients. A functional study showed that overexpression of hsa-miR338-3p in the FLSs inhibited the TGF-β1-induced overactivation of the TGF-β/Smad fibrosis regulation pathway by suppressing TRAP-1 expression and thus reducing the TGF-β1-induced activation of the FLSs and the expression of vimentin and collagen I, two fibrosis markers. Meanwhile, a mechanism study also showed that the upregulation of hsa-miR338-3p reduced Smad2/3 phosphorylation by suppressing TRAP-1 and thus inhibited the TGF-β/Smad pathway and TIMP1, a downstream protein. The present study, for the first time, illustrates the role of hsa-miR338-3p in synovial fibrosis in OA patients and the related mechanism, which is of importance to the treatment of OA and its complications by targeting the FLSs and synovial tissue. Hsa-miR338-3p not only has the potential to be a target for the gene therapy of OA but also has the potential to be a new marker for the diagnosis of clinical progression in OA patients.


Osteoarthritis (OA) Synovium Fibrosis Hsa-miR338-3p TRAP-1 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests, and all authors should confirm its accuracy.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Changzhi Song
    • 1
  • Xiaozu Xu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ya Wu
    • 1
  • Biao Ji
    • 1
  • Xiaoye Zhou
    • 2
  • Ling Qin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of OrthopaedicsYancheng City No. 1 People’s HospitalYanchengChina
  2. 2.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsYancheng City No. 1 People’s HospitalYanchengChina

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