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Proteoglycan 4 (PRG4) is a mucinous glycoprotein secreted by synovial fibroblasts and superficial zone chondrocytes, released into synovial fluid, and adsorbed on cartilage and synovial surfaces. PRG4′s roles include cartilage boundary lubrication, synovial homeostasis, immunomodulation, and suppression of inflammation. Gouty arthritis is mediated by monosodium urate (MSU) crystal phagocytosis by synovial macrophages, with NLRP3 inflammasome activation and IL-1β release. The phagocytic receptor CD44 mediates MSU crystal uptake by macrophages. By binding CD44, PRG4 limits MSU crystal uptake and downstream inflammation. PRG4/CD44 signaling is transduced by protein phosphatase 2A, which inhibits NF-κB, decreases xanthine oxidoreductase (XOR), urate production, and ROS-mediated IL-1β secretion. PRG4 also suppresses MSU crystal deposition in vitro. In contrast to PRG4, collagen type II (CII) alters MSU crystal morphology and promotes the macrophage uptake of MSU crystals. PRG4 deficiency, mediated by imbalance in PRG4-degrading phagocyte proteases and their inhibitors, was recently implicated in erosive gout, independent of hyperuricemia. Thus, dysregulated extracellular matrix homeostasis, including deficient PRG4 and increased CII release, may promote incident gout and progression to erosive tophaceous joint disease. PRG4 supplementation may offer a new therapeutic option for gout.


This article was originally published in Gout, Urate, and Crystal Deposition Disease, volume 1, in 2023.


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