Characteristics of osteoarthritis (OA) include cartilage damage, fibrosis, and osteophyte formation. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF; also known as CCN2), is found in high levels in OA chondrocytes and is frequently involved in fibrosis, bone formation, and cartilage repair. The present study was therefore undertaken to investigate the potential role of CTGF in OA pathophysiology.Methods
We transfected the synovial lining of mouse knee joints with a recombinant adenovirus expressing human CTGF and measured synovial fibrosis and proteoglycan content in cartilage on days 1, 3, 7, 14, and 28. Messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in synovium and cartilage was measured on days 3, 7, and 21.Results
CTGF induced synovial fibrosis, as indicated by accumulation of extracellular matrix and an increase in procollagen type I–positive cells. The fibrosis reached a maximum on day 7 and had reversed by day 28. Levels of mRNA for matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3), MMP-13, ADAMTS-4, ADAMTS-5, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 1 (TIMP-1), and transforming growth factor β were elevated in the fibrotic tissue. TIMP-1 expression was elevated on day 3, while expression of other genes did not increase until day 7 or later. CTGF induced proteoglycan depletion in cartilage as early as day 1. Maximal depletion was observed on days 3–7. Cartilage damage was reduced by day 28. A high level of MMP-3 mRNA expression was found in cartilage. CTGF overexpression did not induce osteophyte formation.Conclusion
CTGF induces transient fibrosis that is reversible within 28 days. Overexpression of CTGF in knee joints results in reversible cartilage damage, induced either by the high CTGF levels or via factors produced by the CTGF-induced fibrotic tissue.