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1.  Differential Expression of GADD45β in Normal and Osteoarthritic Cartilage 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(7):2075-2087.
Our previous study suggested that growth arrest and DNA damage–inducible protein 45β (GADD45β) prolonged the survival of hypertrophic chondrocytes in the developing mouse embryo. This study was undertaken, therefore, to investigate whether GADD45β plays a role in adult articular cartilage.
Gene expression profiles of cartilage from patients with late-stage osteoarthritis (OA) were compared with those from patients with early OA and normal controls in 2 separate microarray analyses. Histologic features of cartilage were graded using the Mankin scale, and GADD45β was localized by immunohistochemistry. Human chondrocytes were transduced with small interfering RNA (siRNA)–GADD45β or GADD45β-FLAG. GADD45β and COL2A1 messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were analyzed by real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction, and promoter activities were analyzed by transient transfection. Cell death was detected by Hoechst 33342 staining of condensed chromatin.
GADD45β was expressed at higher levels in cartilage from normal donors and patients with early OA than in cartilage from patients with late-stage OA. All chondrocyte nuclei in normal cartilage immunostained for GADD45β. In early OA cartilage, GADD45β was distributed variably in chondrocyte clusters, in middle and deep zone cells, and in osteophytes. In contrast, COL2A1, other collagen genes, and factors associated with skeletal development were up-regulated in late OA, compared with early OA or normal cartilage. In overexpression and knockdown experiments, GADD45β down-regulated COL2A1 mRNA and promoter activity. NF-κB overexpression increased GADD45β promoter activity, and siRNA-GADD45β decreased cell survival per se and enhanced tumor necrosis factor α–induced cell death in human articular chondrocytes.
These observations suggest that GADD45β might play an important role in regulating chondrocyte homeostasis by modulating collagen gene expression and promoting cell survival in normal adult cartilage and in early OA.
PMCID: PMC3950332  PMID: 18576389
2.  Do mouse models reflect the diversity of osteoarthritis in humans? 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3072-3075.
PMCID: PMC3462256  PMID: 22674176
3.  Identification of Alpha 2 Macroglobulin (A2M) as a master inhibitor of cartilage degrading factors that attenuates post-traumatic osteoarthritis progression 
To determine if supplemental intra-articular alpha-2 macroglobulin (A2M) has a chondroprotective effect in a rat OA model.
A2M was identified as a potential therapeutic agent by comparing A2M concentrations in serum, synovial fluid (SF), and cartilage from normal and osteoarthritic (OA) patients by Western blotting, mass spectrometry, ELISA, and immunohistochemistry (IHC). The effects of A2M on IL-1-induced cartilage catabolic enzymes were evaluated by Luminex and ELISA in cultured chondrocytes. In vivo effects on cartilage degeneration and MMP-13 concentration were evaluated in male rats (N=120) randomized to four treatments: (1) CLT+saline, (2) ACLT+A2M (1IU/kg), (3) ACLT+A2M (2IU/kg) or (4) sham surgery+saline. Intra-articular injections were given for 6 weeks. The concentration of MMP-13 in SF lavages was measured using ELISA. OA-related gene expression was quantified by RT-qPCR. Histology was performed to grade OA.
In both normal and OA patients, the levels of A2M were lower in SF compared to serum, and MMP-13 was higher in SF than serum of OA patients. In vitro, A2M inhibited the induction of MMP-13 by IL-1 in a dose-dependent manner in human chondrocytes. In the rat ACLT OA model, supplemental intra-articular injection of A2M reduced the concentration of MMP-13 in SF, had a favorable effect on OA-related gene expression, and attenuated OA progression.
A2M is a plasma protease inhibitor that is not present in sufficient concentrations to inactivate the high concentrations of catabolic factors found in OA SF. Our findings suggest that supplemental intra-articular A2M provides chondral protection for post traumatic OA.
PMCID: PMC4187342  PMID: 24578232
4.  ESE-1 Is a Potent Repressor of Type II Collagen Gene (COL2A1) Transcription In Human Chondrocytes 
Journal of cellular physiology  2008;215(2):562-573.
The epithelium-specific ETS (ESE)-1 transcription factor is induced in chondrocytes by interleukin-1β (IL-1β). We reported previously that early activation of EGR-1 by IL-1β results in suppression of the proximal COL2A1 promoter activity by displacement of Sp1 from GC boxes. Here we report that ESE-1 is a potent transcriptional suppressor of COL2A1 promoter activity in chondrocytes and accounts for the sustained, NF-κB-dependent inhibition by IL-1β. Of the ETS factors tested, this response was specific to ESE-1, since ESE-3, which was also induced by IL-1β, suppressed COL2A1 promoter activity only weakly. In contrast, overexpression of ETS-1 increased COL2A1 promoter activity and blocked the inhibition by IL-1β. These responses to ESE-1 and ETS-1 were confirmed using siRNA-ESE1 and siRNA-ETS1. In transient cotransfections, the inhibitory responses to ESE-1 and IL-1β colocalized in the –577/–132 bp promoter region, ESE-1 bound specifically to tandem ETS sites at 403/ 381 bp, and IL-1-induced binding of ESE-1 to the COL2A1 promoter was confirmed in vivo by ChIP. Our results indicate that ESE-1 serves a potent repressor function by interacting with at least two sites in the COL2A1 promoter. However, the endogenous response may depend upon the balance of other ETS factors such as ETS-1, and other IL-1-induced factors, including EGR-1 at any given time. Intracellular ESE-1 staining in chondrocytes in cartilage from patients with osteoarthritis (OA), but not in normal cartilage, further suggests a fundamental role for ESE-1 in cartilage degeneration and suppression of repair.
PMCID: PMC3937869  PMID: 18044710
5.  Inflammation in osteoarthritis 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2011;23(5):471-478.
Purpose of review
This review focuses on the novel stress-induced and proinflammatory mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis, with particular attention to the role of synovitis and the contributions of other joint tissues to cellular events that lead to the onset and progression of the disease and irreversible cartilage damage.
Recent findings
Studies during the past 2 years have uncovered novel pathways that, when activated, cause the normally quiescent articular chondrocytes to become activated and undergo a phenotypic shift, leading to the disruption of homeostasis and ultimately to the aberrant expression of proinflammatory and catabolic genes. Studies in animal models and retrieved human tissues indicate that proinflammatory factors may be produced by the chondrocytes themselves or by the synovium and other surrounding tissues, even in the absence of overt inflammation, and that multiple pathways converge on the upregulation of aggrecanases and collagenases, especially MMP-13. Particular attention has been paid to the contribution of synovitis in posttraumatic joint injury, such as meniscal tears, and the protective role of the pericellular matrix in mediating chondrocyte responses through receptors, such as discoidin domain receptor-2 and syndecan-4. New findings about intracellular signals, including the transcription factors NF-κB, C/EBPβ, ETS, Runx2, and hypoxia-inducible factor-2α, and their modulation by inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, adipokines, Toll-like receptor ligands, and receptor for advanced glycation end-products, as well as CpG methylation and microRNAs, are reviewed.
Further work on mediators and pathways that are common across different models and occur in human osteoarthritis and that impact the osteoarthritis disease process at different stages of initiation and progression will inform us about new directions for targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3937875  PMID: 21788902
cartilage; inflammation; osteoarthritis; synovium
European cells & materials  2011;21:202-220.
Human cartilage is a complex tissue of matrix proteins that vary in amount and orientation from superficial to deep layers and from loaded to unloaded zones. A major challenge to efforts to repair cartilage by stem cell-based and other tissue engineering strategies is the inability of the resident chondrocytes to lay down new matrix with the same structural and resilient properties that it had upon its original formation. This is particularly true for the collagen network, which is susceptible to cleavage once proteoglycans are depleted. Thus, a thorough understanding of the similarities and particularly the marked differences in mechanisms of cartilage remodeling during development, osteoarthritis, and aging may lead to more effective strategies for preventing cartilage damage and promoting repair. To identify and characterize effectors or regulators of cartilage remodeling in these processes, we are using culture models of primary human and mouse chondrocytes and cell lines and mouse genetic models to manipulate gene expression programs leading to matrix remodeling and subsequent chondrocyte hypertrophic differentiation, pivotal processes which both go astray in OA disease. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-13, the major type II collagen-degrading collagenase, is regulated by stress-, inflammation-, and differentiation-induced signals that not only contribute to irreversible joint damage (progression) in OA, but importantly, also to the initiation/onset phase, wherein chondrocytes in articular cartilage leave their natural growth- and differentiation-arrested state. Our work points to common mediators of these processes in human OA cartilage and in early through late stages of OA in surgical and genetic mouse models.
PMCID: PMC3937960  PMID: 21351054
Chondrocytes; gene Regulation; cytokines; BMP signaling; collagens
8.  Green tea polyphenol treatment is chondroprotective, anti-inflammatory and palliative in a mouse posttraumatic osteoarthritis model 
Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol present in green tea, was shown to exert chondroprotective effects in vitro. In this study, we used a posttraumatic osteoarthritis (OA) mouse model to test whether EGCG could slow the progression of OA and relieve OA-associated pain.
C57BL/6 mice were subjected to surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) or sham surgery. EGCG (25 mg/kg) or vehicle control was administered daily for 4 or 8 weeks by intraperitoneal injection starting on the day of surgery. OA severity was evaluated using Safranin O staining and Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) scores, as well as by immunohistochemical analysis to detect cleaved aggrecan and type II collagen and expression of proteolytic enzymes matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13) and A disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 5 (ADAMTS5). Real-time PCR was performed to characterize the expression of genes critical for articular cartilage homeostasis. During the course of the experiments, tactile sensitivity testing (von Frey test) and open-field assays were used to evaluate pain behaviors associated with OA, and expression of pain expression markers and inflammatory cytokines in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) was determined by real-time PCR.
Four and eight weeks after DMM surgery, the cartilage in EGCG-treated mice exhibited less Safranin O loss and cartilage erosion, as well as lower OARSI scores compared to vehicle-treated controls, which was associated with reduced staining for aggrecan and type II collagen cleavage epitopes, and reduced staining for MMP-13 and ADAMTS5 in the articular cartilage. Articular cartilage in the EGCG-treated mice also exhibited reduced levels of Mmp1, Mmp3, Mmp8, Mmp13,Adamts5, interleukin 1 beta (Il1b) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (Tnfa) mRNA and elevated gene expression of the MMP regulator Cbp/p300 interacting transactivator 2 (Cited2). Compared to vehicle controls, mice treated with EGCG exhibited reduced OA-associated pain, as indicated by higher locomotor behavior (that is, distance traveled). Moreover, expression of the chemokine receptor Ccr2 and proinflammatory cytokines Il1b and Tnfa in the DRG were significantly reduced to levels similar to those of sham-operated animals.
This study provides the first evidence in an OA animal model that EGCG significantly slows OA disease progression and exerts a palliative effect.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-014-0508-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4342891  PMID: 25516005
9.  ADAM17 Controls Endochondral Ossification by Regulating Terminal Differentiation of Chondrocytes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(16):3077-3090.
Endochondral ossification is a highly regulated process that relies on properly orchestrated cell-cell interactions in the developing growth plate. This study is focused on understanding the role of a crucial regulator of cell-cell interactions, the membrane-anchored metalloproteinase ADAM17, in endochondral ossification. ADAM17 releases growth factors, cytokines, and other membrane proteins from cells and is essential for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling and for processing tumor necrosis factor alpha. Here, we report that mice lacking ADAM17 in chondrocytes (A17ΔCh) have a significantly expanded zone of hypertrophic chondrocytes in the growth plate and retarded growth of long bones. This abnormality is caused by an accumulation of the most terminally differentiated type of chondrocytes that produces a calcified matrix. Inactivation of ADAM17 in osteoclasts or endothelial cells does not affect the zone of hypertrophic chondrocytes, suggesting that the main role of ADAM17 in the growth plate is in chondrocytes. This notion is further supported by in vitro experiments showing enhanced hypertrophic differentiation of primary chondrocytes lacking Adam17. The enlarged zone of hypertrophic chondrocytes in A17ΔCh mice resembles that described in mice with mutant EGFR signaling or lack of its ligand transforming growth factor α (TGFα), suggesting that ADAM17 regulates terminal differentiation of chondrocytes during endochondral ossification by activating the TGFα/EGFR signaling axis.
PMCID: PMC3753912  PMID: 23732913
10.  Mechanical Forces Induce Changes in VEGF and VEGFR-1/sFlt-1 Expression in Human Chondrocytes 
Expression of the pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) stimulates angiogenesis and correlates with the progression of osteoarthritis. Mechanical joint loading seems to contribute to this cartilage pathology. Cyclic equibiaxial strains of 1% to 16% for 12 h, respectively, induced expression of VEGF in human chondrocytes dose- and frequency-dependently. Stretch-mediated VEGF induction was more prominent in the human chondrocyte cell line C-28/I2 than in primary articular chondrocytes. Twelve hours of 8% stretch induced VEGF expression to 175% of unstrained controls for at least 24 h post stretching, in promoter reporter and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) studies. High affinity soluble VEGF-receptor, sVEGFR-1/sFlt-1 was less stretch-inducible than its ligand, VEGF-A, in these cells. ELISA assays demonstrated, for the first time, a stretch-mediated suppression of sVEGFR-1 secretion 24 h after stretching. Overall, strained chondrocytes activate their VEGF expression, but in contrast, strain appears to suppress the secretion of the major VEGF decoy receptor (sVEGFR-1/sFlt-1). The latter may deplete a biologically relevant feedback regulation to inhibit destructive angiogenesis in articular cartilage. Our data suggest that mechanical stretch can induce morphological changes in human chondrocytes in vitro. More importantly, it induces disturbed VEGF signaling, providing a molecular mechanism for a stress-induced increase in angiogenesis in cartilage pathologies.
PMCID: PMC4200847  PMID: 25257525
VEGF-A; VEGFR-1/FLT-1; sVEGFR-1/FLT-1; cyclic stretch; strain; human chondrocyte; C-28/I2
11.  In vivo cyclic compression causes cartilage degeneration and subchondral bone changes in mouse tibiae 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(6):1569-1578.
Alterations in the mechanical loading environment in joints may have both beneficial and detrimental effects on articular cartilage and subchondral bone and subsequently influence the development of osteoarthritis (OA). We used an in vivo tibial loading model to investigate the adaptive responses of cartilage and bone to mechanical loading and to assess the influence of load level and duration.
We applied cyclic compression of 4.5 and 9.0N peak loads to the left tibia via the knee joint of adult (26-week-old) C57Bl/6 male mice for 1, 2, and 6 weeks. Only 9.0N loading was utilized in young (10-week-old) mice. The changes in articular cartilage and subchondral bone were analyzed by histology and microcomputed tomography.
Loading promoted cartilage damage in both age groups, with increased damage severity dependent upon the duration of loading. Metaphyseal bone mass increased in the young mice, but not in the adult mice, whereas epiphyseal cancellous bone mass decreased with loading in both young and adult mice. Articular cartilage thickness decreased, and subchondral cortical bone thickness increased in the posterior tibial plateau in both age groups. Both age groups developed periarticular osteophytes at the tibial plateau in response to the 9.0N load, but no osteophyte formation occurred in adult mice subjected to 4.5N peak loading.
This non-invasive loading model permits dissection of temporal and topographical changes in cartilage and bone and will enable investigation of the efficacy of treatment interventions targeting joint biomechanics or biological events that promote OA onset and progression.
PMCID: PMC3672344  PMID: 23436303
Mechanical loading; cartilage; subchondral bone; osteoarthritis; mice
12.  Homeostatic Mechanisms in Articular Cartilage and Role of Inflammation in Osteoarthritis 
Current rheumatology reports  2013;15(11):375.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a whole joint disease, in which thinning and disappearance of cartilage is a critical determinant in OA progression. The rupture of cartilage homeostasis whatever its cause: aging, genetic predisposition, trauma or metabolic disorder, induces profound phenotypic modifications of chondrocytes, which then promote the synthesis of a subset of factors that induce cartilage damage and target other joint tissues. Interestingly, among these factors are numerous components of the inflammatory pathways. Chondrocytes produce cytokines, chemokines, alarmins, prostanoids and adipokines and express numerous cell surface receptors for cytokines and chemokines, as well as toll-like receptors. These receptors activate intracellular signaling pathways involved in inflammatory and stress responses of chondrocytes in OA joints. This review focuses on mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of cartilage homeostasis and highlights the role of inflammatory processes in OA progression.
PMCID: PMC3989071  PMID: 24072604
Chondrocytes; Homeostatic mechanisms; Articular; Cartilage; Osteoarthritis; Inflammation; Mechanical stress; Homeostasis; Cartilage matrix degradation; Alarmins; Toll-like receptors; Chemokines; Adipokines; Mechanotransduction
13.  Proteomic analysis of synovial fluid from the osteoarthritic knee: comparison with transcriptome analyses of joint tissues 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(4):981-992.
The pathophysiology of the most common joint disease, osteoarthritis (OA), remains poorly understood. Since synovial fluid (SF) bathes joint cartilage and synovium, we reasoned that a comparative analysis of its protein constituents in health and OA could identify pathways involved in joint damage. A proteomic analysis of knee SF from OA patients and control subjects was performed and compared to microarray expression data from cartilage and synovium.
Age-matched knee SF samples from control subjects, and patients with early- and late-stage OA (n=10 per group) were compared using two-dimensional differential gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) and mass spectrometry (MS). A MS with multiplexed peptide selected reaction monitoring (SRM) assay was used to confirm differential expression of a subset of proteins in an independent OA patient cohort. Proteomic results were analyzed by Ingenuity pathway analysis and compared to published synovial tissue and cartilage mRNA profiles.
66 proteins were differentially present in healthy and OA SF. Three major pathways were identified among these proteins: the acute phase response, and the complement and coagulation pathways. Differential expression of 5 proteins was confirmed by SRM assay. A focused analysis of transcripts corresponding to the differentially present proteins indicates that both synovial and cartilage tissues may contribute to the OA SF proteome.
Proteins involved in the acute phase response, complement and coagulation pathways are differentially regulated in SF of OA patients suggesting they contribute to joint damage. Validation of these pathways and their utility as biomarkers or therapeutic targets in OA is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3618606  PMID: 23400684
14.  Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of iNOS expression in human chondrocytes 
Biochemical pharmacology  2009;79(5):722-732.
Chondrocytes are important for the development and maintenance of articular cartilage. However, both in osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) chondrocytes are involved in the process of cartilage degradation and synthesize important immunomodulatory mediators, including nitric oxide (NO) generated by the inducible NO synthase (iNOS). To uncover the role of iNOS in the pathomechanisms of OA and RA, we analyzed the regulation of iNOS expression using immortalized human chondrocytes as a reproducible model.
In C-28/I2 chondrocytes, iNOS expression was associated with the expression of the chondrocyte phenotype. Peak induction by a cytokine cocktail occurred between 6 and 8 h and declined by 24 h. Inhibition of p38MAPK, NF- κB and the JAK2-STAT-1α pathways resulted in a reduction of iNOS expression. In contrast to other cell types, the cytokine-mediated induction of the human iNOS promoter paralleled the induction rate of the iNOS mRNA expression in C-28/I2 chondrocytes. However, in addition post-transcriptional regulation of iNOS expression by the RNA binding protein KSRP seems to operate in these cells. As seen in other chondrocyte models, glucocorticoids were not able to inhibit cytokine-induced iNOS expression in C-28/I2 cells, due to the lack of the glucocorticoid receptor mRNA expression. In this model of glucocorticoid-resistance, the new fungal anti-inflammatory compound S-curvularin was able to inhibit cytokine-induced iNOS expression and iNOS-dependent NO-production.
In summary, we demonstrate for the first time that differentiated human immortalized C-28/I2 chondrocytes are a representative cell culture model to investigate iNOS gene expression in human joint diseases.
PMCID: PMC3951130  PMID: 19854161
Chondrocytes; iNOS; Glucocorticoids; NF-κB; JAK-STAT; KSRP
15.  The Effect of Paraformaldehyde Fixation on the Delayed Gadolinium-Enhanced MRI of Cartilage (dGEMRIC) Measurement 
The delayed Gadolinium-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Cartilage (dGEMRIC) method allows for both qualitative and quantitative measurement of the spatial distribution of glycosaminoglycan [GAG] in excised cartilage. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of paraformaldehyde fixation on dGEMRIC measurements. Five bovine and seven human cartilage pieces were punched into 5-mm plugs, fixed for 18 h in 4% paraformaldehyde solution, and washed. The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) parameter T1 was measured prior and post fixation in cartilage without (T10) and with (T1Gd), the ionically charged MRI contrast agent Gd(DTPA)2−. Images of tissue before and after fixation were qualitatively very similar. The ratios of T10, T1Gd, and calculated [GAG] after fixation, relative to before fixation, were near or slightly higher than 1 for both bovine cartilage (1.01 ± 0.01, 1.04 ± 0.02, 1.05 ± 0.03, respectively) and for human cartilage (0.96 ± 0.11, 1.03 ± 0.05, 1.09 ± 0.13). Thus, these data suggest that dGEMRIC can be used on previously fixed samples to assess the three dimensional spatial distribution of GAG.
PMCID: PMC3947557  PMID: 18973237
cartilage; GAG; fixed charge; fixation; dGEMRIC
16.  Human Chondrocyte Cultures as Models of Cartilage-Specific Gene Regulation 
The human adult articular chondrocyte is a unique cell type that has reached a fully differentiated state as an end point of development. Within the cartilage matrix, chondrocytes are normally quiescent and maintain the matrix constituents in a low-turnover state of equilibrium. Isolated chondrocytes in culture have provided useful models to study cellular responses to alterations in the environment such as those occurring in different forms of arthritis. However, expansion of primary chondrocytes in monolayer culture results in the loss of phenotype, particularly if high cell density is not maintained. This chapter describes strategies for maintaining or restoring differentiated phenotype by culture in suspension, gels, or scaffolds. Techniques for assessing phenotype involving primarily the analysis of synthesis of cartilage-specific matrix proteins as well as the corresponding mRNAs are also described. Approaches for studying gene regulation, including transfection of promoter-driven reporter genes with expression vectors for transcriptional and signaling regulators, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and DNA methylation are also described.
PMCID: PMC3939611  PMID: 15492365
Chondrocyte; Type II collagen; Aggrecan; Monolayer culture; Suspension culture; Alginate; Agarose; PolyHEMA; Three-dimensional scaffolds; Collagen scaffolds; Transfections; Luciferase reporter plasmids; Adenovirus-mediated expression; Chromatin immunoprecipitation assay
17.  Suppressors of cytokine signalling (SOCS) are reduced in osteoarthritis 
Suppressor of cytokine signalling (SOCS) proteins are inhibitors of cytokine signalling that function via the JAK/STAT pathway (Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription). Eight SOCS proteins, SOCS1–SOCS7 and CIS-1 (cytokine-inducible SH2-domain, with similar structure to the other SOCS proteins) have been identified, of which SOCS1, 2, and 3 and CIS-1 are the best characterised. A characteristic feature of osteoarthritis (OA) is increased production by articular chondrocytes of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), which may be induced by mechanotransduction and contribute to cartilage destruction. In this study, we have compared the gene expression of SOCS1, 2, 3 and CIS-1 in healthy and OA human chondrocytes, and also analyzed the effects of IL-1β and TNFα on the levels of mRNA encoding these SOCS family members. In addition, SOCS2 protein production was assessed and the CpG methylation status of the SOCS2 promoter was analyzed to determine the role of epigenetics in its regulation.
Femoral heads were obtained after joint replacement surgery for late stage OA and hemiarthroplasty following a fracture of the neck of femur (#NOF). Chondrocytes from the superficial layer of OA cartilage and the deep zone of #NOF cartilage were isolated by sequential treatment with trypsin, hyaluronidase and collagenase B. Total DNA and RNA were extracted from the same chondrocytes, and the levels of SOCS1, 2, 3 and CIS-1 mRNA were determined by qRT-PCR. The percentage of methylation in the CpG sites of the SOCS2 proximal promoter was quantified by pyrosequencing. Alternatively, healthy chondrocytes were isolated from #NOF cartilage and cultured with and without a mixture of IL-1β and oncostatin M (OSM, both 2.5 ng/ml) or TNFα (10 ng/ml). The short-term cultures with single cytokine treatment were harvested 24 and 72 h after treatment, and the long-term cultures were maintained for 4–5 weeks until confluent with periodical cytokine stimulation. Total RNA was extracted and mRNA levels were determined by qRT-PCR.
The SOCS2 and CIS-1 mRNA levels were reduced by approximately 10-fold in OA samples compared to control samples, while SOCS1 and SOCS3 showed similar expression patterns in OA and control chondrocytes. The SOCS2 and CIS-1 mRNA levels declined by 6-fold and 3-fold with long-term treatment with IL-1β and OSM in combination and TNFα, respectively. There was no significant difference in the CpG methylation status of the SOCS2 promoter between healthy and OA chondrocytes. Similarly, cytokine stimulation did not change the CpG methylation status of the SOCS2 promoter.
This study demonstrates the reduced expression of SOCS2 and CIS-1 in OA, while SOCS1 and SOCS3 were unaffected. The observation that long-term treatment with inflammatory cytokines attenuated the expression of SOCS2 and CIS-1 suggests a potential positive feedback mechanism, and a role of SOCS in the pathology of OA.
PMCID: PMC3937865  PMID: 21352802
Osteoarthritis (OA); Chondrocytes; Suppressors of cytokine signalling (SOCS); Cytokine-inducible SH2 protein (CIS-1); IL-1β; TNFα
18.  The epigenetic effect of glucosamine and a nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) inhibitor on primary human chondrocytes – Implications for osteoarthritis 
Idiopathic osteoarthritis is the most common form of osteoarthritis (OA) world-wide and remains the leading cause of disability and the associated socio-economic burden in an increasing aging population. Traditionally, OA has been viewed as a degenerative joint disease characterized by progressive destruction of the articular cartilage and changes in the subchondral bone culminating in joint failure. However, the etiology of OA is multifactorial involving genetic, mechanical and environmental factors. Treatment modalities include analgesia, joint injection with steroids or hyaluronic acid, oral supplements including glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, as well as physiotherapy. Thus, there is significant interest in the discovery of disease modifying agents. One such agent, glucosamine (GlcN) is commonly prescribed even though the therapeutic efficacy and mechanism of action remain controversial. Inflammatory cytokines, including IL-1β, and proteinases such as MMP-13 have been implicated in the pathogenesis and progression of OA together with an associated CpG demethylation in their promoters. We have investigated the potential of GlcN to modulate NF-kB activity and cytokine-induced abnormal gene expression in articular chondrocytes and, critically, whether this is associated with an epigenetic process.
Human chondrocytes were isolated from the articular cartilage of femoral heads, obtained with ethical permission, following fractured neck of femur surgery. Chondrocytes were cultured for 5 weeks in six separate groups; (i) control culture, (ii) cultured with a mixture of 2.5 ng/ml IL-1β and 2.5 ng/ml oncostatin M (OSM), (iii) cultured with 2 mM N-acetyl GlcN (Sigma–Aldrich), (iv) cultured with a mixture of 2.5 ng/ml IL-1β, 2.5 ng/ml OSM and 2 mM GlcN, (v) cultured with 1.0 μM BAY 11-7082 (BAY; NF-kB inhibitor: Calbiochem, Darmstadt, Germany) and, (vi) cultured with a mixture of 2.5 ng/ml IL-1β, 2.5 ng/ml OSM and 1.0 μM BAY. The levels of IL1B and MMP13 mRNA were examined using qRT-PCR. The percentage DNA methylation in the CpG sites of the IL1β and MMP13 proximal promoter were quantified by pyrosequencing.
IL1β expression was enhanced over 580-fold in articular chondrocytes treated with IL-1β and OSM. GlcN dramatically ameliorated the cytokine-induced expression by 4-fold. BAY alone increased IL1β expression by 3-fold. In the presence of BAY, IL-1β induced IL1B mRNA levels were decreased by 6-fold. The observed average percentage methylation of the −256 CpG site in the IL1β promoter was 65% in control cultures and decreased to 36% in the presence of IL-1β/OSM. GlcN and BAY alone had a negligible effect on the methylation status of the IL1B promoter. The cytokine-induced loss of methylation status in the IL1B promoter was ameliorated by both GlcN and BAY to 44% and 53%, respectively. IL-1β/OSM treatment increased MMP13 mRNA levels independently of either GlcN or BAY and no change in the methylation status of the MMP13 promoter was observed.
We demonstrate for the first time that GlcN and BAY can prevent cytokine-induced demethylation of a specific CpG site in the IL1β promoter and this was associated with decreased expression of IL1β. These studies provide a potential mechanism of action for OA disease modifying agents via NF-kB and, critically, demonstrate the need for further studies to elucidate the role that NF-kB may play in DNA demethylation in human chondrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3937866  PMID: 21219853
Osteoarthritis; Chondrocytes; Glucosamine; NF-kB; IL1B
19.  Loss of Methylation in CpG Sites in the NF-κB Enhancer Elements of Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Is Responsible for Gene Induction in Human Articular Chondrocytes 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(3):732-742.
To investigate whether the abnormal expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) by osteoarthritic (OA) human chondrocytes is associated with changes in the DNA methylation status in the promoter and/or enhancer elements of iNOS.
Expression of iNOS was quantified by quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. The DNA methylation status of the iNOS promoter and enhancer regions was determined by bisulfite sequencing or pyrosequencing. The effect of CpG methylation on iNOS promoter and enhancer activities was determined using a CpG-free luciferase vector and a CpG methyltransferase. Cotransfections with expression vectors encoding NF-κB subunits were carried out to analyze iNOS promoter and enhancer activities in response to changes in methylation status.
The 1,000-bp iNOS promoter has only 7 CpG sites, 6 of which were highly methylated in both control and OA samples. The CpG site at −289 and the sites in the starting coding region were largely unmethylated in both groups. The NF-κB enhancer region at −5.8 kb was significantly demethylated in OA samples compared with control samples. This enhancer element was transactivated by cotransfection with the NF-κB subunit p65, alone or together with p50. Critically, methylation treatment of the iNOS enhancer element significantly decreased its activity in a reporter assay.
These findings demonstrate the association between demethylation of specific NF-κB–responsive enhancer elements and the activation of iNOS transactivation in human OA chondrocytes, consistent with the differences in methylation status observed in vivo in normal and human OA cartilage and, importantly, show association with the OA process.
PMCID: PMC3937961  PMID: 23239081
20.  C-28/I2 and T/C-28a2 chondrocytes as well as human primary articular chondrocytes express sex hormone and insulin receptors—Useful cells in study of cartilage metabolism☆ 
Sex hormones and insulin have been implicated in articular cartilage metabolism. To supplement previous findings on the regulation of matrix synthesis with 17β-estradiol and insulin and to find a possible model to study cartilage metabolism in vitro, we evaluated the expression of estrogen receptors α and α (ERα, ERβ), androgen receptor (AR) and insulin receptor (IR), in immortalized C-28/I2 and T/C-28a2 chondrocytes and in human primary articular cartilage cells. Chondrocytes were treated with increasing concentrations of 17β-estradiol, dihydrotestosterone or insulin and analyzed by means of RT-PCR and Western blotting. Both cell lines as well as human articular chondrocytes expressed ER αand β, AR and IR at mRNA and protein levels. In immortalized C-28/I2 chondrocytes, we showed that increasing concentrations of 17β-estradiol diminished the 95 kDa band of IR. Since 17β-estradiol suppresses insulin-induced proline incorporation and type II collagen synthesis, as we have previously demonstrated, our findings give the first clue that 17β-estradiol may have negative effects on cartilage anabolism triggered by insulin during hormonal imbalance. Compared to chondrocytes cultured without hormones, immunostaining for ERα/β, AR and IR was decreased in both cell lines after incubation of cells with the receptor-specific hormones. It can be assumed that C-28/I2 and T/C-28a2 chondrocytes interact with the respective hormones. Our findings provide a reproducible model for investigating sex hormone and insulin receptors, which are present in low concentrations in articular chondrocytes, in the tissue-specific context of cartilage metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3937963  PMID: 20971625
Chondrocyte cell lines C-28/I2 and T/C-28a2; Human primary articular chondrocytes; 17β-Estradiol; insulin; Sex hormone receptors; Insulin receptor; Gene expression
21.  A Novel Role for GADD45β as a Mediator of MMP-13 Gene Expression during Chondrocyte Terminal Differentiation*S 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2005;280(46):38544-38555.
The growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible 45β (GADD45β) gene product has been implicated in the stress response, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis. Here we demonstrated the unexpected expression of GADD45β in the embryonic growth plate and uncovered its novel role as an essential mediator of matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13) expression during terminal chondrocyte differentiation. We identified GADD45β as a prominent early response gene induced by bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) through a Smad1/Runx2-dependent pathway. Because this pathway is involved in skeletal development, we examined mouse embryonic growth plates, and we observed expression of Gadd45β mRNA coincident with Runx2 protein in pre-hypertrophic chondrocytes, whereas GADD45β protein was localized prominently in the nucleus in late stage hypertrophic chondrocytes where Mmp-13 mRNA was expressed. In Gadd45β−/− mouse embryos, defective mineralization and decreased bone growth accompanied deficient Mmp-13 and Col10a1 gene expression in the hypertrophic zone. Transduction of small interfering RNA-GADD45β in epiphyseal chondrocytes in vitro blocked terminal differentiation and the associated expression of Mmp-13 and Col10a1 mRNA in vitro. Finally, GADD45β stimulated MMP-13 promoter activity in chondrocytes through the JNK-mediated phosphorylation of JunD, partnered with Fra2, in synergy with Runx2. These observations indicated that GADD45β plays an essential role during chondrocyte terminal differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3937966  PMID: 16144844
22.  IKKα/CHUK Regulates Extracellular Matrix Remodeling Independent of Its Kinase Activity to Facilitate Articular Chondrocyte Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73024.
The non-canonical NF-κB activating kinase IKKα, encoded by CHUK (conserved-helix-loop-helix-ubiquitous-kinase), has been reported to modulate pro- or anti- inflammatory responses, cellular survival and cellular differentiation. Here, we have investigated the mechanism of action of IKKα as a novel effector of human and murine chondrocyte extracellular matrix (ECM) homeostasis and differentiation towards hypertrophy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
IKKα expression was ablated in primary human osteoarthritic (OA) chondrocytes and in immature murine articular chondrocytes (iMACs) derived from IKKαf/f:CreERT2 mice by retroviral-mediated stable shRNA transduction and Cre recombinase-dependent Lox P site recombination, respectively. MMP-10 was identified as a major target of IKKα in chondrocytes by mRNA profiling, quantitative RT-PCR analysis, immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting. ECM integrity, as assessed by type II collagen (COL2) deposition and the lack of MMP-dependent COL2 degradation products, was enhanced by IKKα ablation in mice. MMP-13 and total collagenase activities were significantly reduced, while TIMP-3 (tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-3) protein levels were enhanced in IKKα-deficient chondrocytes. IKKα deficiency suppressed chondrocyte differentiation, as shown by the quantitative inhibition of.Alizarin red staining and the reduced expression of multiple chondrocyte differentiation effectors, including Runx2, Col10a1 and Vegfa,. Importantly, the differentiation of IKKα-deficient chondrocytes was rescued by a kinase-dead IKKα protein mutant.
IKKα acts independent of its kinase activity to help drive chondrocyte differentiation towards a hypertrophic-like state. IKKα positively modulates ECM remodeling via multiple downstream targets (including MMP-10 and TIMP-3 at the mRNA and post-transcriptional levels, respectively) to maintain maximal MMP-13 activity, which is required for ECM remodeling leading to chondrocyte differentiation. Chondrocytes are the unique cell component in articular cartilage, which are quiescent and maintain ECM integrity during tissue homeostasis. In OA, chondrocytes reacquire the capacity to proliferate and differentiate and their activation results in pronounced cartilage degeneration. Τηυσ, our findings are also of potential relevance for defining the onset and/or progression of OA disease.
PMCID: PMC3759388  PMID: 24023802
23.  Dual regulation of metalloproteinase expression in chondrocytes by WISP3/CCN6 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(7):2289-2299.
WISP3/CCN6 is mutated in progressive pseudorheumatoid dysplasia and may have effects on cartilage homeostasis. In order to uncover further roles for WISP3/CCN6 its expression was explored in osteoarthritic cartilage. Effects of WISP3/CCN6 on cartilage-relevant metalloproteinase expression were investigated in immortalised (C-28/I2) and primary chondrocytes.
Cartilage steady state levels of WISP3/CCN6 mRNA and protein production were determined by quantitative RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry respectively. WISP3/CCN6 was over-expressed in C-28/I2 cells and resultant stable clones analysed by real time RT-PCR for metalloproteinase expression and signalling pathways involved explored with pharmacological inhibition. Effects of WISP3/CCN6 on metalloproteinase expression in primary chondrocytes were investigated by an siRNA approach.
WISP3/CCN6 was highly expressed in osteoarthritic cartilage compared to undamaged cartilage at RNA and protein levels. WISP3/CCN6 over-expression in C-28/I2 cells resulted in unexpected dual regulation of metalloproteinases: the expression of the potent aggrecanase, ADAMTS5, was down-regulated 9-fold, whilst MMP10 was up-regulated 14-fold, responses accentuated by suspension culture. MMP10 up-regulation was dependent on several MAP kinases but WISP3/CCN6-mediated ADAMTS5 repression was independent of these pathways and partially relieved by activation of β-catenin signalling. WISP3/CCN6 also suppressed ADAMTS5 expression in C-28/I2 cells treated with cytokines. In cytokine-treated primary chondrocytes gene silencing of WISP3/CCN6 resulted in enhanced ADAMTS5 expression whilst MMP10 expression was suppressed.
WISP3/CCN6 was highly expressed in end-stage osteoarthritic cartilage suggesting a role for this growth factor in cartilage homeostasis. WISP3/CCN6 repression of ADAMTS5 expression and regulation of MMP10 expression suggests complex and context-dependent roles for WISP3/CCN6 in cartilage biology.
PMCID: PMC3366172  PMID: 22294415
24.  Osteoarthritis: A Disease of the Joint as an Organ 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(6):1697-1707.
PMCID: PMC3366018  PMID: 22392533
25.  Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields Increased the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of A2A and A3 Adenosine Receptors in Human T/C-28a2 Chondrocytes and hFOB 1.19 Osteoblasts 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e65561.
Adenosine receptors (ARs) have an important role in the regulation of inflammation and their activation is involved in the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine release. The effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) on inflammation have been reported and we have demonstrated that PEMFs increased A2A and A3AR density and functionality in different cell lines. Chondrocytes and osteoblasts are two key cell types in the skeletal system that play important role in cartilage and bone metabolism representing an interesting target to study the effect of PEMFs. The primary aim of the present study was to evaluate if PEMF exposure potentiated the anti-inflammatory effect of A2A and/or A3ARs in T/C-28a2 chondrocytes and hFOB 1.19 osteoblasts. Immunofluorescence, mRNA analysis and saturation binding assays revealed that PEMF exposure up-regulated A2A and A3AR expression. A2A and A3ARs were able to modulate cAMP production and cell proliferation. The activation of A2A and A3ARs resulted in the decrease of some of the most relevant pro-inflammatory cytokine release such as interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8, following the treatment with IL-1β as an inflammatory stimuli. In human chondrocyte and osteoblast cell lines, the inhibitory effect of A2A and A3AR stimulation on the release of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), an important lipid inflammatory mediator, was observed. In addition, in T/C-28a2 cells, the activation of A2A or A3ARs elicited an inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) secretion. In hFOB 1.19 osteoblasts, PEMF exposure determined an increase of osteoprotegerin (OPG) production. The effect of the A2A or A3AR agonists in the examined cells was enhanced in the presence of PEMFs and completely blocked by using well-known selective antagonists. These results demonstrated that PEMF exposure significantly increase the anti-inflammatory effect of A2A or A3ARs suggesting their potential therapeutic use in the therapy of inflammatory bone and joint disorders.
PMCID: PMC3669296  PMID: 23741498

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