Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Role of TGFβ1 and Macrophage Differentiation in MSU Crystal-Induced Inflammation

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posted on 2021-11-14, 01:41 authored by Steiger, Stefanie

Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by the deposition of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in the joints. MSU crystals trigger a local inflammatory response initiated by resident macrophages followed by a large infiltration of leukocytes. The spontaneous resolution of acute gout is associated with the production of transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1). The overall objectives of this thesis were to investigate mechanisms that lead to TGFβ1 production and contribute to the resolution of acute gout, the effect of TGFβ1 on the functional phenotype of differentiated macrophages, and possible changes in surface marker expression by macrophages in response to MSU crystals.  To determine macrophage-independent sources of TGFβ1 during the resolution of acute gout and how TGFβ1 production altered MSU crystal-recruited neutrophil functions, neutrophils were purified from MSU crystal-treated mice when levels of TGFβ1 were high. MSU crystal-recruited neutrophils and circulating blood neutrophils were identified as TGFβ1⁺ cells. The mechanism for TGFβ1 production by neutrophils was associated with their ability to phagocytose apoptotic neutrophils. TGFβ1 produced by canibalising neutrophils inhibited both respiratory burst and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) production by MSU crystal-activated neutrophils ex vivo. Importantly, neutrophils from MSU crystal-challenged mice treated with TGFβ1 neutralising antibody in vivo produced elevated levels of superoxide but neutrophil IL-1β production was unaffected. These results show that TGFβ1 produced by canibalising neutrophils can actively suppress neutrophil inflammatory functions and therefore make a significant contribution towards the resolution of gouty inflammation.  To investigate the effect of TGFβ1 on macrophage differentiation in vitro, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) bone marrow macrophages (GM-BMMs) and macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) bone marrow macrophages (M-BMMs) were generated in the presence of TGFβ1. TGFβ1 was found to drive a hyper-inflammatory GM-BMM phenotype, while contributing to the differentiation of a hypo-inflammatory M-BMM phenotype specifically in response to MSU crystals. Increased IL-1β production by TGFβ1-differentiated GM-BMMs was associated with enhanced NOD like receptor family, pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) in ammasome activation and caspase 1/caspase 8 interaction, and a down-regulation of receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 3 (RIP3) triggered by MSU crystals. At the same, TGFβ1 inhibited antigen-specific T cell proliferation by GM-BMMs. In contrast, TGFβ1-treated M-BMMs down-regulated the expression of active IL-1β that correlated with decreased IL-1β production, and upregulated RIP3 expression in response to MSU crystals. These data indicate that TGFβ1-treated GM-BMMs exhibited a hyper-inflammatory response to MSU crystal stimulation, whereas M-BMMs were found to be hypo-responsive.  Macrophages were found to upregulate the surface marker NK1.1, which is primarily expressed on natural killer (NK) cells, and occured as a consequence of phagocytosis. Following phagocytosis of MSU crystals, activated macrophages produced IL-1β and tumour necrosis factor ⍺ (TNF⍺), which triggered the upregulation of NK1.1 expression. Macrophage NK1.1 expression is an activation-driven event specifc to MSU crystals. However, phagocytosis of apoptotic neutrophils also triggered the upregulation of NK1.1 by macrophages, a non-inflammatory event that is characteristic for the resolution of acute inflammation. These findings suggest that macrophages may develop NK cell-like properties initiated by an activation-driven or apoptotic cell clearance mechanism.  Taken together, the results of this thesis indicate that canibalising neutrophils self-regulate their inflammatory functions via TGFβ1 and that TGFβ1 drives a hyper-inflammatory GM-BMM phenotype, while shutting down inflammatory functions of M-BMMs. These data highlight a regulatory role for TGFβ1 during acute gouty inflammation.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Biomedical Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Harper, Jacquie; Ian, Hermans