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1.  Choline kinase beta is required for normal endochondral bone formation 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2014;1840(7):2112-2122.
Choline kinase has three isoforms encoded by the genes Chka and Chkb. Inactivation of Chka in mice results in embryonic lethality, whereas Chkb−/− mice display neonatal forelimb bone deformations.
To understand the mechanisms underlying the bone deformations, we compared the biology and biochemistry of bone formation from embryonic to young adult wild-type (WT) and Chkb−/− mice.
The deformations are specific to the radius and ulna during the late embryonic stage. The radius and ulna of Chkb−/− mice display expanded hypertrophic zones, unorganized proliferative columns in their growth plates, and delayed formation of primary ossification centers. The differentiation of chondrocytes of Chkb−/− mice was impaired, as was chondrocyte proliferation and expression of matrix metalloproteinases 9 and 13. In chondrocytes from Chkb−/− mice, phosphatidylcholine was slightly lower than in WT mice whereas the amount of phosphocholine was decreased by approximately 75%. In addition, the radius and ulna from Chkb−/− mice contained fewer osteoclasts along the cartilage/bone interface.
Chkb has a critical role in the normal embryogenic formation of the radius and ulna in mice.
PMCID: PMC4143985  PMID: 24637075
choline kinase; endochondral bone formation; growth plate; chondrocyte; radius; ulna; phosphocholine
2.  Reduced EGFR signaling enhances cartilage destruction in a mouse osteoarthritis model 
Bone research  2014;2:14015-.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease and a major cause of pain and disability in older adults. We have previously identified EGFR signaling as an important regulator of cartilage matrix degradation during epiphyseal cartilage development. To study its function in OA progression, we performed surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) to induce OA in two mouse models with reduced EGFR activity, one with genetic modification (EgfrWa5/+ mice) and the other one with pharmacological inhibition (gefitinib treatment). Histological analyses and scoring at 3 months post-surgery revealed increased cartilage destruction and accelerated OA progression in both mouse models. TUNEL staining demonstrated that EGFR signaling protects chondrocytes from OA-induced apoptosis, which was further confirmed in primary chondrocyte culture. Immunohistochemistry showed increased aggrecan degradation in these mouse models, which coincides with elevated amounts of ADAMTS5 and matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP13), the principle proteinases responsible for aggrecan degradation, in the articular cartilage after DMM surgery. Furthermore, hypoxia-inducible factor 2α (HIF2α), a critical catabolic transcription factor stimulating mmp13 expression during OA, was also up-regulated in mice with reduced EGFR signaling. Taken together, our findings demonstrate a primarily protective role of EGFR during OA progression by regulating chondrocyte survival and cartilage degradation.
PMCID: PMC4472123  PMID: 26120493
EGFR; cartilage destruction; osteoarthritis; destabilization of the medial meniscus
3.  ADAMTS-7 forms a positive feedback loop with TNF-α in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(8):1575-1584.
To examine the expression of ADAMTS-7 during the progression of osteoarthritis (OA), defining its role in the pathogenesis of OA, and elucidating the molecular events involved.
ADAMTS-7 expression in cartilage of a rat OA model was assayed using immunohistochemistry. Cartilage-specific ADAMTS-7 transgenic mice and ADAMTS-7 small interfering (si)RNA knockdown mice were generated and used to analyse OA progression in both spontaneous and surgically induced OA models. Cartilage degradation and OA was evaluated using Safranin-O staining, immunohistochemistry, ELISA and western blotting. In addition, mRNA expression of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and metalloproteinases known to be involved in cartilage degeneration in OA was analysed. Furthermore, the transactivation of ADAMTS-7 by TNF-α and its downstream NF-κB signalling was measured using reporter gene assay.
ADAMTS-7 expression was elevated during disease progression in the surgically induced rat OA model. Targeted overexpression of ADAMTS-7 in chondrocytes led to chondrodysplasia characterised by short-limbed dwarfism and a delay in endochondral ossification in ‘young mice’ and a spontaneous OA-like phenotype in ‘aged’ mice. In addition, overexpression of ADAMTS-7 led to exaggerated breakdown of cartilage and accelerated OA progression, while knockdown of ADAMTS-7 attenuated degradation of cartilage matrix and protected against OA development, in surgically induced OA models. ADAMTS-7 upregulated TNF-α and metalloproteinases associated with OA; in addition, TNF-α induced ADAMTS-7 through NF-κB signalling.
ADAMTS-7 and TNF-α form a positive feedback loop in the regulation of cartilage degradation and OA progression, making them potential molecular targets for prevention and treatment of joint degenerative diseases, including OA.
PMCID: PMC4418017  PMID: 23928557
4.  Loss of the Mammalian DREAM Complex Deregulates Chondrocyte Proliferation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(12):2221-2234.
Mammalian DREAM is a conserved protein complex that functions in cellular quiescence. DREAM contains an E2F, a retinoblastoma (RB)-family protein, and the MuvB core (LIN9, LIN37, LIN52, LIN54, and RBBP4). In mammals, MuvB can alternatively bind to BMYB to form a complex that promotes mitotic gene expression. Because BMYB-MuvB is essential for proliferation, loss-of-function approaches to study MuvB have generated limited insight into DREAM function. Here, we report a gene-targeted mouse model that is uniquely deficient for DREAM complex assembly. We have targeted p107 (Rbl1) to prevent MuvB binding and combined it with deficiency for p130 (Rbl2). Our data demonstrate that cells from these mice preferentially assemble BMYB-MuvB complexes and fail to repress transcription. DREAM-deficient mice show defects in endochondral bone formation and die shortly after birth. Micro-computed tomography and histology demonstrate that in the absence of DREAM, chondrocytes fail to arrest proliferation. Since DREAM requires DYRK1A (dual-specificity tyrosine phosphorylation-regulated protein kinase 1A) phosphorylation of LIN52 for assembly, we utilized an embryonic bone culture system and pharmacologic inhibition of (DYRK) kinase to demonstrate a similar defect in endochondral bone growth. This reveals that assembly of mammalian DREAM is required to induce cell cycle exit in chondrocytes.
PMCID: PMC4054284  PMID: 24710275
5.  F-Spondin Deficient Mice Have a High Bone Mass Phenotype 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98388.
F-spondin is a pericellular matrix protein upregulated in developing growth plate cartilage and articular cartilage during osteoarthritis. To address its function in bone and cartilage in vivo, we generated mice that were deficient for the F-spondin gene, Spon1. Spon1−/− mice were viable and developed normally to adulthood with no major skeletal abnormalities. At 6 months, femurs and tibiae of Spon1−/− mice exhibited increased bone mass, evidenced by histological staining and micro CT analyses, which persisted up to 12 months. In contrast, no major abnormalities were observed in articular cartilage at any age group. Immunohistochemical staining of femurs and tibiae revealed increased levels of periostin, alkaline phosphate and tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) activity in the growth plate region of Spon1−/− mice, suggesting elevated bone synthesis and turnover. However, there were no differences in serum levels of TRAP, the bone resorption marker, CTX-1, or osteoclast differentiation potential between genotypes. Knockout mice also exhibited reduced levels of TGF-β1 in serum and cultured costal chondrocytes relative to wild type. This was accompanied by increased levels of the BMP-regulatory SMADs, P-SMAD1/5 in tibiae and chondrocytes. Our findings indicate a previously unrecognized role for Spon1 as a negative regulator of bone mass. We speculate that Spon1 deletion leads to a local and systemic reduction of TGF-β levels resulting in increased BMP signaling and increased bone deposition in adult mice.
PMCID: PMC4038615  PMID: 24875054
6.  Loss of ATRX Does Not Confer Susceptibility to Osteoarthritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e85526.
The chromatin remodelling protein ATRX is associated with the rare genetic disorder ATR-X syndrome. This syndrome includes developmental delay, cognitive impairment, and a variety of skeletal deformities. ATRX plays a role in several basic chromatin-mediated cellular events including DNA replication, telomere stability, gene transcription, and chromosome congression and cohesion during cell division. We have used a loss-of-function approach to directly investigate the role of Atrx in the adult skeleton in three different models of selective Atrx loss. We specifically targeted deletion of Atrx to the forelimb mesenchyme, to cartilage and to bone-forming osteoblasts. We previously demonstrated that loss of ATRX in forelimb mesenchyme causes brachydactyly while deletion in chondrocytes had minimal effects during development. We now show that targeted deletion of Atrx in osteoblasts causes minor dwarfism but does not recapitulate most of the skeletal phenotypes seen in ATR-X syndrome patients. In adult mice from all three models, we find that joints lacking Atrx are not more susceptible to osteoarthritis, as determined by OARSI scoring and immunohistochemistry. These results indicate that while ATRX plays limited roles during early stages of skeletal development, deficiency of the protein in adult tissues does not confer susceptibility to osteoarthritis.
PMCID: PMC3875582  PMID: 24386478
7.  Association of cartilage-specific deletion of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ with abnormal endochondral ossification and impaired cartilage growth and development in a murine model 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(5):1551-1561.
Long bones develop through the strictly regulated process of endochondral ossification within the growth plate, resulting in the replacement of cartilage by bone. Defects in this process result in skeletal abnormalities and can predispose to disease such as osteoarthritis (OA). Studies suggest that activation of the transcription factor peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) is a therapeutic target for OA. In order to devise PPARγ-related therapies in OA and related diseases, it is critical to identify its role in cartilage biology. Therefore, we determined the in vivo role of PPARγ in endochondral ossification and cartilage development using cartilage-specific PPARγ knockout (KO) mice.
Cartilage-specific PPARγ KO mice were generated using LoxP/Cre system. Histomorphometric and immunohistochemical analysis was performed to account for ossification patterns, chondrocyte proliferation, differentiation, hypertrophy, skeletal organization, bone density and calcium deposition. Real-Time PCR and western blotting was performed to determine the expression of key markers involved in endochondral ossification.
PPARγ KO mice exhibited reduced body length, weight, length of long bones, skeletal growth, cellularity, bone density, calcium deposition and trabecular bone thickness, abnormal growth plate organization, loss of columnar organization, shorter hypertrophic zones, and delayed primary and secondary ossification. Immunohistochemistry for Sox9, BrdU, p57, collagen X and PECAM revealed reduction in chondrocyte differentiation and proliferation, and hypertrophy and vascularisation in growth plates of mutant mice. Isolated chondrocytes and cartilage explants from mutant mice showed aberrant expression of ECM markers including aggrecan, collagen II and MMP-13.
PPARγ is required for normal endochondral ossification and cartilage development in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3430604  PMID: 22131019
8.  Atrx deficiency induces telomere dysfunction, endocrine defects, and reduced life span  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(5):2049-2063.
Human ATRX mutations are associated with cognitive deficits, developmental abnormalities, and cancer. We show that the Atrx-null embryonic mouse brain accumulates replicative damage at telomeres and pericentromeric heterochromatin, which is exacerbated by loss of p53 and linked to ATM activation. ATRX-deficient neuroprogenitors exhibited higher incidence of telomere fusions and increased sensitivity to replication stress–inducing drugs. Treatment of Atrx-null neuroprogenitors with the G-quadruplex (G4) ligand telomestatin increased DNA damage, indicating that ATRX likely aids in the replication of telomeric G4-DNA structures. Unexpectedly, mutant mice displayed reduced growth, shortened life span, lordokyphosis, cataracts, heart enlargement, and hypoglycemia, as well as reduction of mineral bone density, trabecular bone content, and subcutaneous fat. We show that a subset of these defects can be attributed to loss of ATRX in the embryonic anterior pituitary that resulted in low circulating levels of thyroxine and IGF-1. Our findings suggest that loss of ATRX increases DNA damage locally in the forebrain and anterior pituitary and causes tissue attrition and other systemic defects similar to those seen in aging.
PMCID: PMC3635723  PMID: 23563309
9.  The Critical Role of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor in Endochondral Ossification 
Loss of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activity in mice alters growth plate development, impairs endochondral ossification, and retards growth. However, the detailed mechanism by which EGFR regulates endochondral bone formation is unknown. Here, we show that administration of an EGFR-specific small molecule inhibitor, gefitinib, into 1-month-old rats for 7 days produced profound defects in long bone growth plate cartilage characterized by epiphyseal growth plate thickening and massive accumulation of hypertrophic chondrocytes. Immunostaining demonstrated that growth plate chondrocytes express EGFR but endothelial cells and osteoclasts show little to no expression. Gefitinib did not alter chondrocyte proliferation or differentiation and vascular invasion into the hypertrophic cartilage. However, osteoclast recruitment and differentiation at the chondro-osseous junction was attenuated due to decreased RANKL expression in the growth plate. Moreover, gefitinib treatment inhibited the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP9, 13, and 14), increased the amount of collagen fibrils, and decreased degraded extracellular matrix products in the growth plate. In vitro, the EGFR ligand TGFα strongly stimulated RANKL, MMP9 and MMP13 expression and suppressed OPG expression in primary chondrocytes. In addition, a mouse model of cartilage-specific EGFR inactivation exhibited a similar phenotype of hypertrophic cartilage enlargement. Together, our data demonstrate that EGFR signaling supports osteoclastogenesis at the chondro-osseous junction and promotes chondrogenic expression of MMPs in the growth plate. Therefore, we conclude that EGFR signaling plays an essential role in the remodeling of growth plate cartilage extracellular matrix into bone during endochondral ossification.
PMCID: PMC3200483  PMID: 21887704
EGFR; endochondral ossification; growth plate; chondrocytes; MMP
11.  An in vivo investigation of the initiation and progression of subchondral cysts in a rodent model of secondary osteoarthritis 
Subchondral bone cysts (SBC) have been identified in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) as a cause of greater pain, loss of cartilage and increased chance of joint replacement surgery. Few studies monitor SBC longitudinally, and clinical research using three-dimensional imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is limited to retrospective analyses as SBC are identified within an OA patient cohort. The purpose of this study was to use dual-modality, preclinical imaging to monitor the initiation and progression of SBC occurring within an established rodent model of knee OA.
Eight rodents underwent anterior cruciate ligament transection and partial medial meniscectomy (ACLX) of the right knee. In vivo 9.4 T MRI and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scans were performed consecutively prior to ACLX and 4, 8, and 12 weeks post-ACLX. Resultant images were co-registered using anatomical landmarks, which allowed for precise tracking of SBC size and composition throughout the study. The diameter of the SBC was measured, and the volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) was calculated within the bone adjacent to SBC. At 12 weeks, the ACLX and contralateral knees were processed for histological analysis, immunohistochemistry, and Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) pathological scoring.
At 4 weeks post-ACLX, 75% of the rodent knees had at least 1 cyst that formed in the medial tibial plateau; by 12 weeks all ACLX knees contained SBC. Imaging data revealed that the SBC originate in the presence of a subchondral bone plate breach, with evolving composition over time. The diameter of the SBC increased significantly over time (P = 0.0033) and the vBMD significantly decreased at 8 weeks post-ACLX (P = 0.033). Histological analysis demonstrated positive staining for bone resorption and formation surrounding the SBC, which were consistently located beneath the joint surface with the greatest cartilage damage. Trabecular bone adjacent the SBC lacked viable osteocytes and, combined with bone marrow changes, indicated osteonecrosis.
This study provides insight into the mechanisms leading to SBC formation in knee OA. The expansion of these lesions is due to stress-induced bone resorption from the incurred mechanical instability. Therefore, we suggest these lesions can be more accurately described as a form of OA-induced osteonecrosis, rather than 'subchondral cysts'.
PMCID: PMC3392819  PMID: 22304985
12.  Biology and Pathology of Rho GTPase, PI-3 Kinase-Akt and MAP Kinase Signaling Pathways in Chondrocytes 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2010;110(3):573-580.
Chondrocytes provide the framework for the developing skeleton and regulate long-bone growththrough the activity of the growth plate. Chondrocytes in the articular cartilage, found at the ends of bones in diarthroidial joints, are responsible for maintenance of the tissue through synthesis and degradation of the extracellular matrix. The processes of growth, differentiation, cell death and matrix remodeling are regulated by a network of cell signaling pathways in response to a variety of extracellular stimuli. These stimuli consist of soluble ligands, including growth factors and cytokines, extracellular matrix proteins, and mechanical factors that act in concert to regulate chondrocyte function through a variety of canonical and non-canonical signaling pathways. Key chondrocyte signaling pathways include, but are not limited to, the p38, JNK and ERK MAP kinases, the PI-3 kinase-Akt pathway, the Jak-STAT pathway, Rho GTPases and Wnt-β-catenin and Smad pathways. Modulation of the activity of any of these pathways has been associated with various pathological states in cartilage. This review focuses on the Rho GTPases, the PI-3 kinase-Akt pathway, and some selected aspects of MAP kinase signaling. Most studies to date have examined these pathways in isolation but it is becoming clear that there is significant cross talk among the pathways and that the overall effects on chondrocyte function depend on the balance in activity of multiple signaling proteins.
PMCID: PMC2883292  PMID: 20512918
13.  Rac1 activation induces tumour necrosis factor-α expression and cardiac dysfunction in endotoxemia 
Induction of tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) expression leads to myocardial depression during sepsis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of Rac1 in TNF-α expression and cardiac dysfunction during endotoxemia and to determine the involvement of phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced Rac1 activation. Our results showed that LPS-induced Rac1 activation and TNF-α expression in cultured neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes. The response was inhibited in Rac1 deficient cardiomyocytes or by a dominant-negative Rac1 (Rac1N17). To determine whether PI3K regulates Rac1 activation, cardiomyocytes were treated with LY294002, a PI3K selective inhibitor. Treatment with LY294002 decreased Rac1 activity as well as TNF-α expression stimulated by LPS. Furthermore, inhibition of PI3K and Rac1 activity decreased LPS-induced superoxide generation which was associated with a significant reduction in ERK1/2 phosphorylation. To investigate the role of Rac1 in myocardial depression during endotoxemia in vivo, wild-type and cardiomyocyte-specific Rac1 deficient mice were treated with LPS (2 mg/kg, i.p.). Deficiency in Rac1 significantly decreased myocardial TNF-α expression and improved cardiac function during endotoxemia. We conclude that PI3K-mediated Rac1 activation is required for induction of TNF-α expression in cardiomyocytes and cardiac dysfunction during endotoxemia. The effect of Rac1 on TNF-α expression seems to be mediated by increased NADPH oxidase activity and ERK1/2 phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC3822624  PMID: 20518848
sepsis; tumour necrosis factor-α; lipopolysaccharide; cardiac dysfunction; PI3 kinase; Rac1 GTPase
14.  Regulation of Gene Expression by PI3K in Mouse Growth Plate Chondrocytes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8866.
Endochondral ossification, the process through which long bones are formed, involves chondrocyte proliferation and hypertrophic differentiation in the cartilage growth plate. In a previous publication we showed that pharmacological inhibition of the PI3K signaling pathway results in reduced endochondral bone growth, and in particular, shortening of the hypertrophic zone in a tibia organ culture system. In this current study we aimed to investigate targets of the PI3K signaling pathway in hypertrophic chondrocytes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Through the intersection of two different microarray analyses methods (classical single gene analysis and GSEA) and two different chondrocyte differentiation systems (primary chondrocytes treated with a pharmacological inhibitor of PI3K and microdissected growth plates), we were able to identify a high number of genes grouped in GSEA functional categories regulated by the PI3K signaling pathway. Genes such as Phlda2 and F13a1 were down-regulated upon PI3K inhibition and showed increased expression in the hypertrophic zone compared to the proliferative/resting zone of the growth plate. In contrast, other genes including Nr4a1 and Adamts5 were up-regulated upon PI3K inhibition and showed reduced expression in the hypertrophic zone. Regulation of these genes by PI3K signaling was confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR. We focused on F13a1 as an interesting target because of its known role in chondrocyte hypertrophy and osteoarthritis. Mouse E15.5 tibiae cultured with LY294002 (PI3K inhibitor) for 6 days showed decreased expression of factor XIIIa in the hypertrophic zone compared to control cultures.
Discovering targets of signaling pathways in hypertrophic chondrocytes could lead to targeted therapy in osteoarthritis and a better understanding of the cartilage environment for tissue engineering.
PMCID: PMC2810323  PMID: 20111593
15.  Genome-Wide Analyses of Gene Expression during Mouse Endochondral Ossification 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8693.
Endochondral ossification is a complex process involving a series of events that are initiated by the establishment of a chondrogenic template and culminate in its replacement through the coordinated activity of osteoblasts, osteoclasts and endothelial cells. Comprehensive analyses of in vivo gene expression profiles during these processes are essential to obtain a complete understanding of the regulatory mechanisms involved.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To address these issues, we completed a microarray screen of three zones derived from manually segmented embryonic mouse tibiae. Classification of genes differentially expressed between each respective zone, functional categorization as well as characterization of gene expression patterns, cytogenetic loci, signaling pathways and functional motifs both confirmed reported data and provided novel insights into endochondral ossification. Parallel comparisons of the microdissected tibiae data set with our previously completed micromass culture screen further corroborated the suitability of micromass cultures for modeling gene expression in chondrocyte development. The micromass culture system demonstrated striking similarities to the in vivo microdissected tibiae screen; however, the micromass system was unable to accurately distinguish gene expression differences in the hypertrophic and mineralized zones of the tibia.
These studies allow us to better understand gene expression patterns in the growth plate and endochondral bones and provide an important technical resource for comparison of gene expression in diseased or experimentally-manipulated cartilages. Ultimately, this work will help to define the genomic context in which genes are expressed in long bones and to understand physiological and pathological ossification.
PMCID: PMC2805713  PMID: 20084171
16.  PPARγ2 expression in growth plate chondrocytes is regulated by p38 and GSK-3 
Although peroxisome proliferator activated receptor (PPAR)γ remains a critical regulator of preadipocyte differentiation, new roles have been discovered in inflammation, bone morphogenesis, endothelial function, cancer, longevity and atherosclerosis. Despite the demonstration of PPARγ expression in chondrocytes, its role and the pathways affecting its expression and activity in chondrocytes remain largely unknown. We investigated the effects of PPARγ activation on chondrocyte differentiation and its participation in chondrocyte lipid metabolism. PPARγ2 expression is highly regulated during chondrocyte differentiation in vivo and in vitro PPARγ activation with troglitazone resulted in increased Indian hedgehog expression and reduced collagen X expression, confirming previously described roles in the inhibition of differentiation. However, the major effect of PPARγ2 in chondrocytes appears to be on lipid metabolism. During differentiation chondrocytes increase expression of the lipid-associated metabolizing protein, Lpl, which is accompanied by increased gene expression of PPARγ. PPARγ expression is suppressed by p38 activity, but requires GSK-3 activity. Furthermore, Lpl expression is regulated by p38 and GSK-3 signalling. This is the first study demonstrating a relationship between PPARγ2 expression and chondrocyte lipid metabolism and its regulation by p38 and GSK-3 signalling.
PMCID: PMC3837598  PMID: 20414969
chondrocyte; lipid metabolism; PPARγ; p38; GSK-3
17.  Loss of ATRX in Chondrocytes Has Minimal Effects on Skeletal Development 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7106.
Mutations in the human ATRX gene cause developmental defects, including skeletal deformities and dwarfism. ATRX encodes a chromatin remodeling protein, however the role of ATRX in skeletal development is currently unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We induced Atrx deletion in mouse cartilage using the Cre-loxP system, with Cre expression driven by the collagen II (Col2a1) promoter. Growth rate, body size and weight, and long bone length did not differ in AtrxCol2cre mice compared to control littermates. Histological analyses of the growth plate did not reveal any differences between control and mutant mice. Expression patterns of Sox9, a transcription factor required for cartilage morphogenesis, and p57, a marker of cell cycle arrest and hypertrophic chondrocyte differentiation, was unaffected. However, loss of ATRX in cartilage led to a delay in the ossification of the hips in some mice. We also observed hindlimb polydactily in one out of 61 mutants.
These findings indicate that ATRX is not directly required for development or growth of cartilage in the mouse, suggesting that the short stature in ATR-X patients is caused by defects in cartilage-extrinsic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2744333  PMID: 19774083
18.  Nitric oxide, C-type natriuretic peptide and cGMP as regulators of endochondral ossification 
Developmental biology  2008;319(2):171-178.
Coordinated proliferation and differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes is required for endochondral bone growth, but the mechanisms and pathways that control these processes are not completely understood. Recent data demonstrate important roles for nitric oxide (NO) and C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) in the regulation of cartilage development. Both NO and CNP stimulate the synthesis of cGMP and thus the activation of common downstream pathways. One of these downstream mediators, cGMP-dependent kinase II (cGKII), has itself been shown to be essential for normal endochondral bone formation. This review summarizes our knowledge of the roles and mechanisms of NO, CNP and cGKII signaling in cartilage and endochondral bone development.
PMCID: PMC2526053  PMID: 18514181
nitric oxide; C-type natriuretic peptide; cGMP; cGMP-dependent kinase; cartilage; endochondral bone; MAPK pathways
19.  The Pattern Recognition Receptor CD36 Is a Chondrocyte Hypertrophy Marker Associated with Suppression of Catabolic Responses and Promotion of Repair Responses to Inflammatory Stimuli1 
Multiple inflammatory mediators in osteoarthritis (OA) cartilage, including S100/calgranulin ligands of receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE), promote chondrocyte hypertrophy, a differentiation state associated with matrix catabolism. In this study, we observed that RAGE knockout was not chondroprotective in instability-induced knee OA in 8-wk-old mice. Hence, we tested the hypothesis that expression of the alternative S100/calgranulin and patterning receptor CD36, identified here as a marker of growth plate chondrocyte hypertrophy, mediates chondrocyte inflammatory and differentiation responses that promote OA. In rat knee joint destabilization-induced OA, RAGE expression was initially sparse throughout cartilage but increased diffusely by 4 wk after surgery. In contrast, CD36 expression focally increased at sites of cartilage injury and colocalized with developing chondrocyte hypertrophy and aggrecan cleavage NITEGE neoepitope formation. However, CD36 transfection in normal human knee-immortalized chondrocytes (CH-8 cells) was associated with decreased capacity of S100A11 and TNF-α to induce chondrocyte hypertrophy and ADAMTS-4 and matrix metalloproteinase 13 expression. S100A11 lost the capacity to inhibit proteoglycans synthesis and gained the capacity to induce proteoglycan synthesis in CD36-transfected CH-8 cells. Moreover, S100A11 required the p38 MAPK pathway kinase MKK3 to induce NITEGE development in mouse articular cartilage explants. However, CH-8 cells transfected with CD36 demonstrated decreased S100A11-induced MKK3 and p38 phosphorylation. Therefore, RAGE and CD36 patterning receptor expression were linked with opposing effects on inflammatory, procatabolic responses to S100A11 and TNF-α in chondrocytes.
PMCID: PMC2698125  PMID: 19342682
20.  The retinoic acid binding protein CRABP2 is increased in murine models of degenerative joint disease 
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating disease with poorly defined aetiology. Multiple signals are involved in directing the formation of cartilage during development and the vitamin A derivatives, the retinoids, figure prominently in embryonic cartilage formation. In the present study, we examined the expression of a retinoid-regulated gene in murine models of OA.
Mild and moderate forms of an OA-like degenerative disease were created in the mouse stifle joint by meniscotibial transection (MTX) and partial meniscectomy (PMX), respectively. Joint histopathology was scored using an Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) system and gene expression (Col1a1, Col10a1, Sox9 and Crabp2) in individual joints was determined using TaqMan quantitative PCR on RNA from microdissected articular knee cartilage.
For MTX, there was a significant increase in the joint score at 10 weeks (n = 4, p < 0.001) in comparison to sham surgeries. PMX surgery was slightly more severe and produced significant changes in joint score at six (n = 4, p < 0.01), eight (n = 4, p < 0.001) and 10 (n = 4, p < 0.001) weeks. The expression of Col1a1 was increased in both surgical models at two, four and six weeks post-surgery. In contrast, Col10a1 and Sox9 for the most part showed no significant difference in expression from two to six weeks post-surgery. Crabp2 expression is induced upon activation of the retinoid signalling pathway. At two weeks after surgery in the MTX and PMX animals, Crabp2 expression was increased about 18-fold and about 10-fold over the sham control, respectively. By 10 weeks, Crabp2 expression was increased about three-fold (n = 7, not significant) in the MTX animals and about five-fold (n = 7, p < 0.05) in the PMX animals in comparison to the contralateral control joint.
Together, these findings suggest that the retinoid signalling pathway is activated early in the osteoarthritic process and is sustained during the course of the disease.
PMCID: PMC2688246  PMID: 19173746
22.  The PI3K pathway regulates endochondral bone growth through control of hypertrophic chondrocyte differentiation 
The majority of our bones develop through the process of endochondral ossification that involves chondrocyte proliferation and hypertrophic differentiation in the cartilage growth plate. A large number of growth factors and hormones have been implicated in the regulation of growth plate biology, however, less is known about the intracellular signaling pathways involved. PI3K/Akt has been identified as a major regulator of cellular proliferation, differentiation and death in multiple cell types.
Results and Discussion
Employing an organ culture system of embryonic mouse tibiae and LY294002, a pharmacological inhibitor of PI3K, we show that inhibition of the pathway results in significant growth reduction, demonstrating that PI3K is required for normal endochondral bone growth in vitro. PI3K inhibition reduces the length of the proliferating and particularly of the hypertrophic zone. Studies with organ cultures and primary chondrocytes in micromass culture show delayed hypertrophic differentiation of chondrocytes and increased apoptosis in the presence of LY294002. Surprisingly, PI3K inhibition had no strong effect on IGF1-induced bone growth, but partially blocked the anabolic effects of C-type natriuretic peptide.
Our data demonstrate an essential role of PI3K signaling in chondrocyte differentiation and as a consequence of this, in the endochondral bone growth process.
PMCID: PMC2329617  PMID: 18405384
23.  The ANKH ΔE490Mutation in Calcium Pyrophosphate Dihydrate Crystal Deposition Disease (CPPDD) Affects Tissue Non-specific Alkaline Phosphatase (TNAP) Activities 
ANKH (human homolog of progressive ankylosis) regulates inorganic pyrophosphate (PPi) transport. Dominant ANKH mutations were detected in at least five multiplex families with calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystal deposition disease (CPPPD). The objective of this study is to assess the functional consequences of one CPPDD-associated ANKH mutation (ΔE490) in chondrogenic ATDC5 cells. Stable ATDC5 transfectants bearing myc-tagged constructs of wild-type ANKH, mutant ANKH (ΔE490) and neo controls were generated. Upon ITS (insulin, transferrin and selenium) induction, expression of chondrocyte markers including alkaline phosphatase activity in the various transfectants was assessed. The ANKH ΔE490- transfectants had low alkaline phosphatase activities throughout ITS treatment due to lower TNAP protein expression and the presence of intracellular low-molecular-weight inhibitors. Our results suggest that the interplay of ANKH and TNAP activities is tightly regulated.
PMCID: PMC2577949  PMID: 19088867
24.  Src kinase inhibition promotes the chondrocyte phenotype 
Regulated differentiation of chondrocytes is essential for both normal skeletal development and maintenance of articular cartilage. The intracellular pathways that control these events are incompletely understood, and our ability to modulate the chondrocyte phenotype in vivo or in vitro is therefore limited. Here we examine the role played by one prominent group of intracellular signalling proteins, the Src family kinases, in regulating the chondrocyte phenotype. We show that the Src family kinase Lyn exhibits a dynamic expression pattern in the chondrogenic cell line ATDC5 and in a mixed population of embryonic mouse chondrocytes in high-density monolayer culture. Inhibition of Src kinase activity using the pharmacological compound PP2 (4-Amino-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-7-(t-butyl)pyrazolo [3,4-d]pyrimidine) strongly reduced the number of primary mouse chondrocytes. In parallel, PP2 treatment increased the expression of both early markers (such as Sox9, collagen type II, aggrecan and xylosyltransferases) and late markers (collagen type X, Indian hedgehog and p57) markers of chondrocyte differentiation. Interestingly, PP2 repressed the expression of the Src family members Lyn, Frk and Hck. It also reversed morphological de-differentiation of chondrocytes in monolayer culture and induced rounding of chondrocytes, and reduced stress fibre formation and focal adhesion kinase phosphorylation. We conclude that the Src kinase inhibitor PP2 promotes chondrogenic gene expression and morphology in monolayer culture. Strategies to block Src activity might therefore be useful both in tissue engineering of cartilage and in the maintenance of the chondrocyte phenotype in diseases such as osteoarthritis.
PMCID: PMC2212572  PMID: 17927818
25.  Expression profiling of Dexamethasone-treated primary chondrocytes identifies targets of glucocorticoid signalling in endochondral bone development 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:205.
Glucocorticoids (GCs) are widely used anti-inflammatory drugs. While useful in clinical practice, patients taking GCs often suffer from skeletal side effects including growth retardation in children and adolescents, and decreased bone quality in adults. On a physiological level, GCs have been implicated in the regulation of chondrogenesis and osteoblast differentiation, as well as maintaining homeostasis in cartilage and bone. We identified the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) as a potential regulator of chondrocyte hypertrophy in a microarray screen of primary limb bud mesenchyme micromass cultures. Some targets of GC regulation in chondrogenesis are known, but the global effects of pharmacological GC doses on chondrocyte gene expression have not been comprehensively evaluated.
This study systematically identifies a spectrum of GC target genes in embryonic growth plate chondrocytes treated with a synthetic GR agonist, dexamethasone (DEX), at 6 and 24 hrs. Conventional analysis of this data set and gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed. Transcripts associated with metabolism were enriched in the DEX condition along with extracellular matrix genes. In contrast, a subset of growth factors and cytokines were negatively correlated with DEX treatment. Comparing DEX-induced gene expression data to developmental changes in gene expression in micromass cultures revealed an additional layer of complexity in which DEX maintains the expression of certain chondrocyte marker genes while inhibiting factors that promote vascularization and ultimately ossification of the cartilaginous template.
Together, these results provide insight into the mechanisms and major molecular classes functioning downstream of DEX in primary chondrocytes. In addition, comparison of our data with microarray studies of DEX treatment in other cell types demonstrated that the majority of DEX effects are tissue-specific. This study provides novel insights into the effects of pharmacological GC on chondrocyte gene transcription and establishes the foundation for subsequent functional studies.
PMCID: PMC1929075  PMID: 17603917

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