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Acta Med Okayama. 2001 Dec;55(6):333-40.

Expression of caspase-3 and -9 relevant to cartilage destruction and chondrocyte apoptosis in human osteoarthritic cartilage.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Okayama University Medical School, Japan.


To clarify the involvement of the caspase family in the pathway of NO-induced chondrocyte apoptosis, osteoarthritis (OA) cartilage obtained from 8 patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty were used for histopathological study. Cartilage samples taken from non-fibrillated areas of femoral head resected during surgery for femoral neck fracture were used for comparison. DNA fragmentation of chondrocytes was detected by the nick end-labeling (TUNEL) method. Apoptosis was further confirmed by transmission electron microscopy. The distributions of nitrotyrosine (NT), caspase-3, and -9 were examined immunohistochemically. The populations of apoptotic as well as NT-, caspase-3-, and -9-positive cells were quantified by counting the number of cells in the superficial, middle, and deep layers, respectively. The TUNEL-positive cells were observed primarily in superficial proliferating chondrocytes, clustering chondrocytes, and deep-layer chondrocytes of OA cartilage. Few positive cells were seen in the proliferating chondrocytes in the middle layer. Positive reactions for caspase-3 and -9 were observed in chondrocytes in similar areas. Histological OA grade showed significant correlations with the mean populations of apoptotic chondrocytes (% apoptosis) over the 3 areas. The populations of NT-positive cells (% NT) over the same areas also showed significant correlation with OA grade. Positivity for caspase-3 closely correlated with the OA grade, % apoptosis and %NT. It was concluded that caspase-3 and -9 could play a role in NO-induced chondrocyte apoptosis in OA cartilage.

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