Introduction: Thrombin is a key factor in the stimulation of fibrin deposition, angiogenesis, and proinflammatory processes. Abnormalities in these processes are primary features of osteoarthritis (OA). Heme oxygenase (HO)-1 is a stress-inducible rate-limiting enzyme in heme degradation that confers cytoprotection against oxidative injury. Here, we investigated the intracellular signaling pathways involved in thrombin-induced HO-1 expression in human synovial fibroblasts (SFs).Methods: Thrombin-mediated HO-1 expression was assessed with quantitative real-time (q)PCR. The mechanisms of action of thrombin in different signaling pathways were studied by using Western blotting. Knockdown of protease-activated receptor (PAR) proteins was achieved by transfection with siRNA. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were used to study in vivo binding of Nrf2 to the HO-1 promoter. Transient transfection was used to examine HO-1 activity.Results: Osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASFs) showed significant expression of thrombin, and expression was higher than in normal SFs. OASFs stimulation with thrombin induced concentration- and time-dependent increases in HO-1 expression. Pharmacologic inhibitors or activators and genetic inhibition by siRNA of protease-activated receptors (PARs) revealed that the PAR1 and PAR3 receptors, but not the PAR4 receptor, are involved in thrombin-mediated upregulation of HO-1. Thrombin-mediated HO-1 expression was attenuated by thrombin inhibitor (PPACK), PKCδ inhibitor (rottlerin), or c-Src inhibitor (PP2). Stimulation of cells with thrombin increased PKCδ, c-Src, and Nrf2 activation.Conclusion: Our results suggest that the interaction between thrombin and PAR1/PAR3 increases HO-1 expression in human synovial fibroblasts through the PKCδ, c-Src, and Nrf2 signaling pathways.
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