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PLoS One. 2017 Aug 31;12(8):e0183693. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183693. eCollection 2017.

Obesity-associated metabolic syndrome spontaneously induces infiltration of pro-inflammatory macrophage in synovium and promotes osteoarthritis.

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Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, School of Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.
Institute for Agriculture and the Environment and School of Health and Wellbeing, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.
The Prince Charles Hospital, Orthopedic Department, Brisbane, Australia.



Epidemiological and experimental studies have established obesity to be an important risk factor for osteoarthritis (OA), however, the mechanisms underlying this link remains largely unknown. Here, we studied local inflammatory responses in metabolic-OA.


Wistar rats were fed with control diet (CD) and high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (HCHF) for period of 8 and 16 weeks. After euthanasia, the knees were examined to assess the articular cartilage changes and inflammation in synovial membrane. Further IHC was conducted to determine the macrophage-polarization status of the synovium. In addition, CD and HCHF synovial fluid was co-cultured with bone marrow-derived macrophages to assess the effect of synovial fluid inflammation on macrophage polarisation.


Our study showed that, obesity induced by a high-carbohydrate, high-fat (HCHF) diet is associated with spontaneous and local inflammation of the synovial membranes in rats even before the cartilage degradation. This was followed by increased synovitis and increased macrophage infiltration into the synovium and a predominant elevation of pro-inflammatory M1 macrophages. In addition, bone marrow derived macrophages, cultured with synovial fluid collected from the knees of obese rats exhibited a pro-inflammatory M1 macrophage phenotype.


Our study demonstrate a strong association between obesity and a dynamic immune response locally within synovial tissues. Furthermore, we have also identified synovial resident macrophages to play a vital role in the inflammation caused by the HCHF diet. Therefore, future therapeutic strategies targeted at the synovial macrophage phenotype may be the key to break the link between obesity and OA.

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