Analyses on the mechanisms that underlie the chondroprotective properties of calcitonin

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Graphical abstractIntroductionCalcitonin (CT) has recently been shown to display chondroprotective effects. Here, we investigate the putative mechanisms by which CT delivers these actions.MethodsImmortalized C-28/I2 cells or primary adult human articular chondrocytes (AHAC) were cultured in high-density micromasses to investigate: (i) CT anabolic effects using qPCR and immuhistochemistry analysis; (ii) CT anti-apoptotic effects using quantitation of Bax/Bcl gene products ratio, TUNEL assay and caspase-3 expression; (iii) CT effects on CREB, COL2A1 and NFAT transcription factors.ResultsCT (10−10–10−8 nM) induced significant up-regulation of cartilage phenotypic markers (SOX9, COL2A1 and ACAN), with down-regulation of catabolic (MMP1 and MMP13 and ADAMTS5) gene products both in resting and inflammatory conditions. This was mirrored by an augmented production of type II collagen and accumulation of glycosaminoglycan- and proteoglycan-rich extracellular matrix in vitro. Mechanistic analyses revealed only partial involvement of cyclic AMP formation in these effects of CT. Congruently, using reporter assays for specific transcription factors, there was no indication for CREB activation, whereas the COL2A1 promoter was genuinely and directly activated by cell exposure to CT. Phenotypically, these mechanisms supported the ability of CT, whilst inactive on its own, to counteract the pro-apoptotic effects of IL-1β, demonstrated by TUNEL-positive staining of chondrocytes and ratio of BAX/BCL genes products.ConclusionThese data may provide a novel lead for the development of CT-based chondroprotective strategies that rely on the engagement of mechanisms that lead to augmented chondrocyte anabolism and inhibited chondrocyte apoptosis.

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