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Ann Rheum Dis. 2008 Nov;67(11):1617-25. doi: 10.1136/ard.2008.087718. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Annexin 5 overexpression increased articular chondrocyte apoptosis induced by basic calcium phosphate crystals.

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  • 1INSERM U606, IFR 139, Hôpital Lariboisière, Paris, France.



Basic calcium phosphate (BCP) crystals (octacalcium phosphate (OCP), carbapatite (CA) and hydroxyapatite (HA)) are associated with severe forms of osteoarthritis. In advanced osteoarthritis, cartilage shows chondrocyte apoptosis, overexpression of annexin 5 (A5) and BCP crystal deposition within matrix vesicles. We assessed in vitro whether BCP crystals and overexpression of A5 increased chondrocyte apoptosis.


Apoptosis was induced by BCP crystals, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha (20 ng/ml) and Fas ligand (20 ng/ml) in normal articular chondrocytes (control) and in A5 overexpressed chondrocytes, performed by adenovirus infection. Apoptosis was assessed by caspase 3 (Cas3) activity, and DNA fragmentation.


All BCP crystals, TNF-alpha and Fas ligand induced chondrocyte apoptosis as demonstrated by decreased cell viability and increased Cas3 activity and DNA fragmentation. TUNEL (terminal deoxyribonucleotide transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labelling)-positive staining chondrocytes were increased by OCP (12.4 (5.2)%), CA (9.6 (2.6)%) and HA (9.2 (3.0)%) crystals and TNF-alpha (9.6 (2.4)%) stimulation compared with control (3.1 (1.9)%). BCP crystals increased Cas3 activity in a dose-dependent fashion. BCP-crystal-induced chondrocyte apoptosis was independent from TNF-alpha and interleukin-1beta pathways but required cell-crystal contact and intralysosomal crystal dissolution. Indeed, preincubation with ammonium chloride, a lysosomal inhibitor of BCP crystal dissolution, significantly decreased BCP-crystal-induced Cas3 activity. Finally, overexpression of A5 enhanced BCP crystal- and TNF-alpha-induced chondrocyte apoptosis.


Overexpression of A5 and the presence of BCP crystals observed in advanced osteoarthritis contributed to chondrocyte apoptosis. Our results suggest a new pathophysiological mechanism for calcium-containing crystal arthropathies.

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