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Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Apr;64(4):1193-203. doi: 10.1002/art.33445. Epub 2011 Oct 27.

Regulation of subchondral bone osteoblast metabolism by cyclic compression.

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  • 1University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.



Recent data have shown that abnormal subchondral bone remodeling plays an important role in osteoarthritis (OA) onset and progression, and it was suggested that abnormal mechanical pressure applied to the articulation was responsible for these metabolic changes. This study was undertaken to evaluate the effects of cyclic compression on osteoblasts from OA subchondral bone.


Osteoblasts were isolated from sclerotic and nonsclerotic areas of human OA subchondral bone. After 28 days, the osteoblasts were surrounded by an abundant extracellular matrix and formed a resistant membrane, which was submitted to cyclic compression (1 MPa at 1 Hz) for 4 hours. Gene expression was evaluated by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Protein production in culture supernatants was quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or visualized by immunohistochemistry.


Compression increased the expression of genes coding for interleukin-6 (IL-6), cyclooxygenase 2, RANKL, fibroblast growth factor 2, IL-8, matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3), MMP-9, and MMP-13 but reduced the expression of osteoprotegerin in osteoblasts in both sclerotic and nonsclerotic areas. Colα1(I) and MMP-2 were not significantly affected by mechanical stimuli. Nonsclerotic osteoblasts were significantly more sensitive to compression than sclerotic ones, but after compression, differences in messenger RNA levels between nonsclerotic and sclerotic osteoblasts were largely reduced or even abolished. Under basal conditions, sclerotic osteoblasts expressed similar levels of α5, αv, β1, and β3 integrins and CD44 as nonsclerotic osteoblasts but 30% less connexin 43, an important mechanoreceptor.


Genes involved in subchondral bone sclerosis are mechanosensitive. After compression, nonsclerotic and sclerotic osteoblasts expressed a similar phenotype, suggesting that compression could be responsible for the phenotype changes in OA subchondral osteoblasts.

Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Rheumatology.

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