A&R Abstracts: Methotrexate

Want to know more about methotrexate? Check out these abstracts from Arthritis & Rheumatism and log on to www.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/arthritis to read the full articles.


Increased sensitivity to apoptosis induced by methotrexate is mediated by jun N-terminal kinase.

(Arthritis Rheum. 2011;63:2606-2616.)


Objective: Low-dose methotrexate (MTX) is an effective therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), yet its mechanism of action is incompletely understood. The aim of this study was to explore the induction of apoptosis by MTX.

Methods: Flow cytometry was performed to assess changes in the levels of intracellular proteins, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and apoptosis. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was performed to assess changes in the transcript levels of select target genes in response to MTX.

Results: MTX did not directly induce apoptosis but rather “primed” cells for markedly increased sensitivity to apoptosis via either mitochondrial or death receptor pathways, by a JNK-dependent mechanism. Increased sensitivity to apoptosis was mediated, at least in part, by MTX-dependent production of ROS, JNK activation, and JNK-dependent induction of genes whose protein products promote apoptosis. Supplementation with tetrahydrobiopterin blocked these MTX-induced effects. Patients with RA who were receiving low-dose MTX therapy expressed elevated levels of the JNK target gene, jun.

Conclusion: Our results support a model whereby MTX inhibits reduction of dihydrobiopterin to tetrahydrobiopterin, resulting in increased production of ROS, increased JNK activity, and increased sensitivity to apoptosis. The finding of increased jun levels in patients with RA receiving low-dose MTX supports the notion that this pathway is activated by MTX in vivo and may contribute to the efficacy of MTX in inflammatory disease.


Reversal of the antiinflammatory effects of methotrexate by the nonselective adenosine receptor antagonists theophylline and caffeine. Evidence that the antiinflammatory effects of methotrexate are mediated via multiple adenosine receptors in rat adjuvant arthritis.

(Arthritis Rheum. 2000;43:656-663.)


Objective: Weekly low-dose methotrexate (MTX) remains the mainstay of second-line therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We have previously reported that adenosine, acting at specific receptors on inflammatory cells, mediates the antiinflammatory effects of MTX in both in vitro and in vivo models of acute inflammation, but the mechanism by which MTX suppresses the chronic inflammation of arthritis remains controversial. The present study was undertaken to further investigate the means by which adenosine mediates the antiinflammatory effects of MTX.

Methods: The effects of two nonselective adenosine receptor antagonists, theophylline and caffeine, were examined, using the rat adjuvant arthritis model of RA. These agents were given alone and in conjunction with MTX, and arthritis severity was assessed clinically, radiologically, and histologically. Since rodent adenosine A3 receptors are not blocked by theophylline, selective A1, A2A, and A2B receptor antagonists were tested as well.

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