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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2014 Feb;22(2):259-63. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.12.001. Epub 2013 Dec 12.

O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) protein modification is increased in the cartilage of patients with knee osteoarthritis.

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Bone and Joint Research Unit, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Madrid, Spain.
Department of Biological Chemistry, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.
Donation Unit, Transplant Services Foundation, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain.
Bone and Joint Research Unit, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Madrid, Spain. Electronic address:



There is increasing evidence that the addition of O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) to proteins plays an important role in cell signaling pathways. In chondrocytes, accumulation of O-GlcNAc-modified proteins induces hypertrophic differentiation. Osteoarthritis (OA) is characterized by cartilage degradation, and hypertrophic-like changes in hyaline chondrocytes. However, the mechanisms responsible for these changes have not been described. Our aim was to study whether O-GlcNAcylation and the enzymes responsible for this modification are dysregulated in the cartilage of patients with knee OA and whether interleukin-1 could induce these modifications in cultured human OA chondrocytes (HOC).


Human cartilage was obtained from patients with knee OA and from age and sex-matched healthy donors. HOC were cultured and stimulated with the catabolic cytokine IL-1α. Global protein O-GlcNAcylation and the synthesis of the key enzymes responsible for this modification, O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) and O-GlcNAcase (OGA), were assessed by western blot.


OA was associated with a 4-fold increase in the global O-GlcNAcylation in the cartilage. OA cartilage showed a re-distribution of the OGT and OGA isoforms, with a net increase in the presence of both enzymes, in comparison to healthy cartilage. In HOC, IL-1α stimulation rapidly increased O-GlcNAcylation and OGT and OGA synthesis.


Our results indicate that a proinflammatory milieu could favor the accumulation of O-GlcNAcylated proteins in OA cartilage, together with the dysregulation of the enzymes responsible for this modification. The increase in O-GlcNAcylation could be responsible, at least partially, for the re-expression of hypertrophic differentiation markers that have been observed in OA.


Cartilage; Chondrocytes; Glycosylation; Hypertrophic differentiation; O-GlcNAcylation

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