Il-17a and tnf modulate normal human spinal entheseal bone and soft tissue mesenchymal stem cell osteogenesis, adipogenesis, and stromal function

Tobias Russell, Abdulla Watad, Charlie Bridgewood, Hannah Rowe, Almas Khan, Abhay Rao, Peter Loughenbury, Peter Millner, Robert Dunsmuir, Richard Cuthbert, Ala Altaie, Elena Jones, Dennis McGonagle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The spondylarthritides (SpA) are intimately linked to new bone formation and IL-17A and TNF pathways. We investigated spinal soft tissue and bone mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) responses to IL-17A and TNF, including their osteogenesis, adipogenesis, and stromal supportive function and ability to support lymphocyte recruitment. Methods: Normal spinal peri-entheseal bone (PEB) and entheseal soft tissue (EST) were characterized for MSCs by immunophenotypic, osteogenic, chondrogenic, and adipogenic differentiation criteria. Functional and gene transcriptomic analysis was carried out on undifferentiated, adipo-differentiated, and osteo-differentiated MSCs. The enthesis C-C Motif Chemokine Ligand 20-C-C Motif Chemokine Receptor 6 (CCL20-CCR6) axis was investigated at transcript and protein levels to ascertain whether entheseal MSCs influence local immune cell populations. Results: Cultured MSCs from both PEB and EST displayed a tri-lineage differentiation ability. EST MSCs exhibited 4.9-fold greater adipogenesis (p < 0.001) and a 3-fold lower osteogenic capacity (p < 0.05). IL-17A induced greater osteogenesis in PEB MSCs compared to EST MSCs. IL-17A suppressed adipogenic differentiation, with a significant decrease in fatty acid-binding protein 4 (FABP4), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), Cell Death Inducing DFFA Like Effector C (CIDEC), and Perilipin-1 (PLIN1). IL-17A significantly increased the CCL20 transcript (p < 0.01) and protein expression (p < 0.001) in MSCs supporting a role in type 17 lymphocyte recruitment. Conclusions: Normal spinal enthesis harbors resident MSCs with different in vitro functionalities in bone and soft tissue, especially in response to IL-17A, which enhanced osteogenesis and CCL20 production and reduced adipogenesis compared to unstimulated MSCs. This MSC-stromal-enthesis immune system may be a hitherto unappreciated mechanism of “fine tuning” tissue repair responses at the enthesis in health and could be relevant for SpA understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number341
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Enthesis
  • IL-17
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Spondyloarthritis
  • TNF


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