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Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Jun;63(6):649-55.

Up regulation of cathepsin K expression in articular chondrocytes in a transgenic mouse model for osteoarthritis.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Turku, FIN-20520 Turku, Finland.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To study the expression of cysteine proteinases, particularly cathepsin K, and their extracellular inhibitor cystatin C in articular cartilage of transgenic Del1 mice which harbour a short deletion mutation in a type II collagen transgene and are predisposed to early onset osteoarthritis.

METHODS:

Northern analysis was used to measure mRNA levels of cathepsins B, H, K, L, and S, and cystatin C in total RNA extracted from knee joints of Del1 mice, using their non-transgenic litter mates as controls. Immunohistochemistry and morphometry was used to study the distribution of cathepsin K and cystatin C in the knee joints.

RESULTS:

Up regulation of cathepsin K mRNA expression was seen in the knee joints of transgenic Del1 mice at the onset of cartilage degeneration. Cathepsin K was found near sites of matrix destruction in articular chondrocytes, particularly in clusters of proliferating cells, and in calcified cartilaginous matrix. In intact articular cartilage of control animals, cathepsin K was only seen in a small number of chondrocytes. Upon aging, control animals also developed osteoarthritis, which was accompanied by increased cathepsin K expression. Cystatin C was mostly localised in and around chondrocytes located in calcified cartilage, with no obvious association with the onset of cartilage degeneration.

CONCLUSION:

The temporospatial distribution of cathepsin K in osteoarthritic cartilage suggests a role for this enzyme in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. Because cathepsin K can digest cartilage matrix components it may contribute to the development of osteoarthritic lesions. These data may provide new clues for the development of treatments aimed at preventing cartilage degeneration.

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