Sepiapterin Reductase Inhibition Leading to Selective Reduction of Inflammatory Joint Pain in Mice and Increased Urinary Sepiapterin Levels in Humans and Mice

Masahide Fujita, Débora da Luz Scheffer, Bruna Lenfers Turnes, Shane J.F. Cronin, Alban Latrémolière, Michael Costigan, Clifford J. Woolf, Alexandra Latini, Nick A. Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate the antiinflammatory and analgesic effects of sepiapterin reductase (SPR) inhibition in a mouse model of inflammatory joint disease, and to determine whether urinary sepiapterin levels, as measured in mice and healthy human volunteers, could be useful as a noninvasive, translational biomarker of SPR inhibition/target engagement. Methods: The collagen antibody–induced arthritis (CAIA) model was used to induce joint inflammation in mice. The effects of pharmacologic inhibition of SPR on thresholds of heat-, cold-, and mechanical-evoked pain sensitivity and on signs of inflammation were tested in mice with CAIA. In addition, mice and healthy human volunteers were treated with SPR inhibitors, and changes in urinary sepiapterin levels were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Results: CAIA in mice was characterized by 2 phases: in the acute inflammation (early) phase, joint inflammation and heat-, mechanical-, and cold-induced pain hypersensitivity were present, while in the postinflammation (late) phase, no joint inflammation was observed but heat- and mechanical-induced hypersensitivity, but not cold hypersensitivity, were present. Inhibition of SPR in mice with CAIA significantly attenuated the heat-induced hyperalgesia in both phases, and the mechanical allodynia in the late phase. Signs of inflammation were unaffected by SPR inhibition. Urinary tetrahydrobiopterin levels, as a marker of inflammatory pain, were increased during inflammation in mice with CAIA (2-fold increase over controls; P < 0.05) and significantly reduced by SPR inhibition (P < 0.05 versus vehicle-treated mice). Increased urinary sepiapterin levels in the presence of SPR inhibition in both mice and healthy human volunteers were associated with high sensitivity (70–85%) and high specificity (82–88%) for the prediction of SPR inhibition/target engagement. Conclusion: SPR inhibition reduces the pain associated with joint inflammation, thus showing its potential utility as an analgesic strategy for inflammatory joint pain. In addition, SPR inhibition increases urinary sepiapterin levels, indicating the potential of this measurement as a noninvasive biomarker of target engagement of SPR inhibitors, such as sulfasalazine, a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug that is currently used as a first-line treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalArthritis and Rheumatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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