Background: In osteoarthritis (OA), cartilage matrix is lost gradually despite enhanced matrix synthesis by chondrocytes. This paradox may be explained, at least partly, by reduced chondrocyte anabolism in degenerated area of OA cartilage. However, to date, it is not known why chondrocyte anabolism is suppressed in those areas.
Methods: Cartilage was obtained from control knees and end-stage OA knees in macroscopically preserved areas and degenerated areas, and gene expression was analyzed in respective regions of cartilage using laser capture microdissection and qPCR. For the cartilage protein analysis, cartilage was obtained from preserved areas and degenerated areas of OA knees in pairs, and proteins were extracted using urea buffer. Protein concentrations were determined by Luminex and compared between the areas. Cartilage explants prepared from preserved areas and degenerated areas of OA knees were cultured in the presence or absence of an AKT inhibitor, and the gene expression was evaluated by qPCR. Finally, the expression of SP1 was evaluated in OA and control cartilage, and the significance of Sp1 on the expression of IGF1R and IRS1 was investigated in experiments using primary cultured chondrocytes.
Results: Within OA cartilage, the expression of IGF-1, IGF-2, IGF1R and IRS1 was reduced in degenerated areas compared to preserved areas, while the expression of all six IGF-binding protein genes examined was enhanced in the former areas. Consistent results were obtained by a protein analysis. In explant culture, the inhibition of AKT signaling abrogated the abundant matrix gene expression in the preserved areas over the degenerated areas, indicating that suppressed matrix synthesis in degenerated areas may be ascribed, at least partly, to attenuated IGF signaling. Within OA cartilage, the expression of Sp1 was considerably reduced in degenerated areas compared to preserved areas, which correlated well with the expression of IGF1R and IRS1. In experiments using primary cultured chondrocytes, the expression of IGF1R and IRS1 was enhanced by the induction of Sp1 expression and reduced by the suppression of Sp1 expression.
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that attenuated IGF signaling may be responsible, at least partly, for the reduced matrix synthesis in degenerated areas of OA cartilage.