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Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Apr;44(4):826-37.

Regulation of YKL-40 production by human articular chondrocytes.

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University of California San Diego, La Jolla, USA.



YKL-40 (human cartilage glycoprotein 39) is one of the most abundant proteins secreted by cultured chondrocytes. The objectives of the present study were to identify regulators of YKL-40 production in cartilage and chondrocytes and to map the localization of YKL-40 in chondrocytes.


Human articular chondrocytes and cartilage explants (obtained from subjects at autopsy, from a tissue bank, and from osteoarthritis [OA] patients undergoing total joint replacement surgery) were stimulated with cytokines, growth factors, and other agents. YKL-40 expression was analyzed by Northern blot and polymerase chain reaction. YKL-40 secretion into the media was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.


YKL-40 production increased to very high levels during the early phase of chondrocyte monolayer culture and in normal cartilage explant cultures as a response to tissue injury. Spontaneous YKL-40 release was higher in OA than in normal cartilage explant cultures. In chondrocyte monolayer cultures, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) and transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) decreased the levels of secreted YKL-40, and this was associated with a reduction in YKL-40 messenger RNA levels. IL-1beta, but not TGFbeta, reduced YKL-40 production in cartilage explant cultures. Media from explants treated with cycloheximide had no detectable YKL-40, suggesting that the released protein was newly synthesized. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed YKL-40 staining in the Golgi system of the chondrocytes, but YKL-40 could not be detected in the extracellular matrix.


The spontaneous increase in the production of YKL-40 in the early phase of culture appears to represent a cellular response to changes in the extracellular matrix environment. This, coupled with the profound suppressive effects of IL-1beta and TGFbeta on YKL-40 production, identifies a novel regulatory pattern for this major chondrocyte-derived protein.

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