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J Cell Biochem. 2008 Jul 1;104(4):1393-406. doi: 10.1002/jcb.21717.

p38/NF-kB-dependent expression of COX-2 during differentiation and inflammatory response of chondrocytes.

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Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.


Studying cartilage differentiation, we observed the emergence of inflammation-related proteins suggesting that a common pathway was activated in cartilage differentiation and inflammation. In the present paper, we investigated the expression pathway of the inflammation-related enzyme Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) during differentiation and inflammatory response of the chondrocytic cell line MC615. Cells were cultured either as (i) proliferating prechondrogenic cells expressing type I collagen or (ii) differentiated hyperconfluent cells expressing Sox9 and type II collagen. The p38 and the NF-kB pathways were investigated in standard conditions and after inflammatory agents treatment. NF-kB was constitutively activated in differentiated cells. The activation level of NF-kB in differentiated cells was comparable to the level in proliferating cells treated with the inflammatory agent LPS. In both cases, p65 was bound to the NF-kB consensus sequence of COX-2 promoter. p38, constitutively activated in differentiated cells, was activated in proliferating cells by treatment with LPS or IL-1alpha. In stimulated proliferating cells the two pathways are connected since addition of the p38-specific inhibitor SB203580 inhibited p38 activation, significantly reduced NF-kB activation and repressed COX-2 synthesis indicating that p38 is upstream NF-kB activation and COX-2 synthesis. In differentiated cells, the treatment with the inflammatory agent neither enhance NF-kB activation, nor synthesis of COX-2 while the addition of SB203580 neither repressed activation of p38, nor COX-2 synthesis, suggesting a constitutive activation of a p38/NF-kB/COX2 pathway. Our data indicate that in chondrocytes, COX-2 is expressed via p38 activation/NF-kB recruitment during both differentiation and inflammatory response.

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