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Arthritis Res Ther. 2005;7(1):R127-38. Epub 2004 Nov 29.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha and epidermal growth factor act additively to inhibit matrix gene expression by chondrocyte.

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  • 1CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


The failure of chondrocytes to replace the lost extracellular matrix contributes to the progression of degenerative disorders of cartilage. Inflammatory mediators present in the joint regulate the breakdown of the established matrix and the synthesis of new extracellular matrix molecules. In the present study, we investigated the effects of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) on chondrocyte morphology and matrix gene expression. Chondrocytes were isolated from distal femoral condyles of neonatal rats. Cells in primary culture displayed a cobblestone appearance. EGF, but not TNF-alpha, increased the number of cells exhibiting an elongated morphology. TNF-alpha potentiated the effect of EGF on chondrocyte morphology. Individually, TNF-alpha and EGF diminished levels of aggrecan and type II collagen mRNA. In combination, the effects of TNF-alpha and EGF were additive, indicating the involvement of discrete signaling pathways. Cell viability was not compromised by TNF-alpha or by EGF, alone or in combination. EGF alone did not activate NF-kappaB or alter NF-kappaB activation by TNF-alpha. Pharmacologic studies indicated that the effects of TNF-alpha and EGF alone or in combination were independent of protein kinase C signaling, but were dependent on MEK1/2 activity. Finally, we analyzed the involvement of Sox-9 using a reporter construct of the 48 base pair minimal enhancer of type II collagen. TNF-alpha attenuated enhancer activity as expected; in contrast, EGF did not alter either the effect of TNF-alpha or basal activity. TNF-alpha and EGF, acting through distinct signaling pathways, thus have additive adverse effects on chondrocyte function. These findings provide critical insights into the control of chondrocytes through the integration of multiple extracellular signals.

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