Ras signaling inhibitors attenuate disease in adjuvant-induced arthritis via targeting pathogenic antigen-specific Th17-type cells

Morad Zayoud, Victoria Marcu-Malina, Einav Vax, Jasmine Jacob-Hirsch, Galit Elad-Sfadia, Iris Barshack, Yoel Kloog, Itamar Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Ras family of GTPases plays an important role in signaling nodes downstream to T cell receptor and CD28 activation, potentially lowering the threshold for T-cell receptor activation by autoantigens. Somatic mutation in NRAS or KRAS may cause a rare autoimmune disorder coupled with abnormal expansion of lymphocytes. T cells from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients show excessive activation of Ras/MEK/ERK pathway. The small molecule farnesylthiosalicylic acid (FTS) interferes with the interaction between Ras GTPases and their prenyl-binding chaperones to inhibit proper plasma membrane localization. In the present study, we tested the therapeutic and immunomodulatory effects of FTS and its derivative 5-fluoro-FTS (F-FTS) in the rat adjuvant-induced arthritis model (AIA). We show that AIA severity was significantly reduced by oral FTS and F-FTS treatment compared to vehicle control treatment. FTS was as effective as the mainstay anti-rheumatic drug methotrexate, and combining the two drugs significantly increased efficacy compared to each drug alone. We also discovered that FTS therapy inhibited both the CFA-driven in vivo induction of Th17 and IL-17/IFN-? producing "double positive" as well as the upregulation of serum levels of the Th17-associated cytokines IL-17A and IL-22. By gene microarray analysis of effector CD4+ T cells from CFA-immunized rats, re-stimulated in vitro with the mycobacterium tuberculosis heat-shock protein 65 (Bhsp65), we determined that FTS abrogated the Bhsp65-induced transcription of a large list of genes (e.g., Il17a/f, Il22, Ifng, Csf2, Lta, and Il1a). The functional enrichment bioinformatics analysis showed significant overlap with predefined gene sets related to inflammation, immune system processes and autoimmunity. In conclusion, FTS and F-FTS display broad immunomodulatory effects in AIA with inhibition of the Th17-type response to a dominant arthritogenic antigen. Hence, targeting Ras signal-transduction cascade is a potential novel therapeutic approach for RA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number799
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 7 Jul 2017


  • Adjuvant induced arthritis
  • Farnesylthiosalicylic acid
  • Ras GTPases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • T-helper cells


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