Methotrexate mechanism in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

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Methotrexate has been used in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) since the 1980s and to this day is often the first line medication for RA treatment. In this review, we examine multiple hypotheses to explain the mechanism of methotrexate efficacy in RA. These include folate antagonism, adenosine signaling, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), decrease in adhesion molecules, alteration of cytokine profiles, and polyamine inhibition amongst some others. Currently, adenosine signaling is probably the most widely accepted explanation for the methotrexate mechanism in RA given that methotrexate increases adenosine levels and on engagement of adenosine with its extracellular receptors an intracellular cascade is activated promoting an overall anti-inflammatory state. In addition to these hypotheses, we examine the mechanism of methotrexate in RA from the perspective of its adverse effects and consider some of the newer genetic markers of methotrexate efficacy and toxicity in RA. Lastly, we briefly discuss the mechanism of additive methotrexate in the setting of TNF-α inhibitor treatment of RA. Ultimately, finding a clear explanation for the pathway and mechanism leading to methotrexate efficacy in RA, there may be a way to formulate more potent therapies with fewer side effects.




Friedman, B., & Cronstein, B. (2019, May 1). Methotrexate mechanism in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Joint Bone Spine. Elsevier Masson SAS.

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