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Mol Biol Rep. 2010 Oct;37(7):3265-72. doi: 10.1007/s11033-009-9911-x. Epub 2009 Oct 30.

Leptin plays a catabolic role on articular cartilage.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedics Surgery, The Second Hospital of Medical College, Zhejiang University College of Medicine, JieFang Road 88#, 310009, Hangzhou, People's Republic of China.


Leptin has been shown to play a crucial role in the regulation of body weight. There is also evidence that this adipokine plays a key role in the process of osteoarthritis. However, the precise role of leptin on articular cartilage metabolism is not clear. We investigate the role of leptin on articular cartilage in vivo in this study. Recombinant rat leptin (100 μg) was injected into the knee joints of rats, 48 h later, messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and protein levels of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), matrix metalloproteinases 2 and 9 (MMP-2, MMP-9), cathepsin D, and collagen II from articular cartilage were analyzed by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and western blot. Two important aggrecanases ADAMTS-4 and -5 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 4 and 5) were also analyzed by real-time quantitative PCR. Besides, articular cartilage was also assessed for proteoglycan/GAG content by Safranin O staining. Leptin significantly increased both gene and protein levels of MMP-2, MMP-9, cathepsin D, and collagen II, while decreased bFGF markedly in cartilage. Moreover, the gene expression of ADAMTS-4 and -5 were markedly increased, and histologically assessed depletion of proteoglycan in articular cartilage was observed after treatment with leptin. These results strongly suggest that leptin plays a catabolic role on cartilage metabolism and may be a disadvantage factor involve in the pathological process of OA.

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