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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 27;106(4):1181-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806062106. Epub 2009 Jan 12.

Aging-related loss of the chromatin protein HMGB2 in articular cartilage is linked to reduced cellularity and osteoarthritis.

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  • 1Division of Arthritis Research, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease and typically begins with an aging-related disruption of the articular cartilage surface. Mechanisms leading to the aging-related cartilage surface degeneration remain to be determined. Here, we demonstrate that nonhistone chromatin protein high-mobility group box (HMGB) protein 2 is uniquely expressed in the superficial zone (SZ) of human articular cartilage. In human and murine cartilage, there is an aging-related loss of HMGB2 expression, ultimately leading to its complete absence. Mice genetically deficient in HMGB2 (Hmgb2(-/-)) show earlier onset of and more severe OA. This is associated with a profound reduction in cartilage cellularity attributable to increased cell death. These cellular changes precede glycosaminoglycan depletion and progressive cartilage erosions. Chondrocytes from Hmgb2(-/-) mice are more susceptible to apoptosis induction in vitro. In conclusion, HMGB2 is a transcriptional regulator specifically expressed in the SZ of human articular cartilage and supports chondrocyte survival. Aging is associated with a loss of HMGB2 expression and reduced cellularity, and this contributes to the development of OA.

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