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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Arthritis Research & Therapy 1/2018

Monosodium urate crystals reduce osteocyte viability and indirectly promote a shift in osteocyte function towards a proinflammatory and proresorptive state

Arthritis Research & Therapy > Ausgabe 1/2018
Ashika Chhana, Bregina Pool, Karen E. Callon, Mei Lin Tay, David Musson, Dorit Naot, Geraldine McCarthy, Susan McGlashan, Jillian Cornish, Nicola Dalbeth
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13075-018-1704-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Bone erosion is a frequent complication of gout and is strongly associated with tophi, which are lesions comprising inflammatory cells surrounding collections of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals. Osteocytes are important cellular mediators of bone remodeling. The aim of this study was to investigate the direct effects of MSU crystals and indirect effects of MSU crystal-induced inflammation on osteocytes.


For direct assays, MSU crystals were added to MLO-Y4 osteocyte cell line cultures or primary mouse osteocyte cultures. For indirect assays, the RAW264.7 macrophage cell line was cultured with or without MSU crystals, and conditioned medium from these cultures was added to MLO-Y4 cells. MLO-Y4 cell viability was assessed using alamarBlue® and LIVE/DEAD® assays, and MLO-Y4 cell gene expression and protein expression were assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. Histological analysis was used to examine the relationship between MSU crystals, inflammatory cells, and osteocytes in human joints affected by tophaceous gout.


In direct assays, MSU crystals reduced MLO-Y4 cell and primary mouse osteocyte viability but did not alter MLO-Y4 cell gene expression. In contrast, conditioned medium from MSU crystal-stimulated RAW264.7 macrophages did not affect MLO-Y4 cell viability but significantly increased MLO-Y4 cell expression of osteocyte-related factors including E11, connexin 43, and RANKL, and inflammatory mediators such as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-11, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Inhibition of COX-2 in MLO-Y4 cells significantly reduced the indirect effects of MSU crystals. In histological analysis, CD68+ macrophages and MSU crystals were identified in close proximity to osteocytes within bone. COX-2 expression was also observed in tophaceous joint samples.


MSU crystals directly inhibit osteocyte viability and, through interactions with macrophages, indirectly promote a shift in osteocyte function that favors bone resorption and inflammation. These interactions may contribute to disordered bone remodeling in gout.
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