It was shown recently that synovial fibroblast transformation into adipocytes reduced the expression of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-8. However, the synovial fibroblast adipogenesis was inhibited in inflammatory conditions induced by the
tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Furthermore, adipogenesis is often accompanied by leptin production, a proinflammatory adipokine in rheumatic diseases. In this study, we tested the phytohormone genistein for adipogenic and anti-inflammatory properties on human synovial fibroblasts. Results showed that genistein was able to transform synovial fibroblasts into adipocytes that expressed perilipin-A and produced adiponectin, but not leptin. Furthermore, genistein enhanced glucocorticoid-mediated synovial fibroblast adipogenesis and, in parallel, downregulated glucocorticoid-induced leptin and leptin receptor. Endogenous and TNF-alpha-induced expressions of IL-6, IL-8, p38, p65 and C/EBP-beta were also downregulated by genistein, showing its anti-inflammatory properties. Peroxisome proliferator- activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma) agonist, rosiglitazone, had a synergic effect on genistein-induced whereas the non-active tyrosine kinase inhibitor, daidzein, had a significantly inferior adipogenic activity than genistein. The Janus kinase-2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor, AG 490, mimicked the anti-leptin effect of genistein. These results showed that genistein-induced adipogenesis involves PPAR-gamma induction and tyrosine kinase inhibition. In conclusion, genistein, alone or coupled with glucocorticoids, have both adipogenic and anti-inflammatory effects on synovial fibroblasts.