Carnosic acid attenuates cartilage degeneration through induction of heme oxygenase-1 in human articular chondrocytes

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is common age-associated disease, and associated with joint pain, mobility limitations and compromised overall quality of life. OA treatment is currently limited to pain management and joint arthroplasty at end stage disease. Oxidative damage to cartilage extracellular matrix and cells is an important mechanism in joint aging and OA pathogenesis. Evidence from in vitro and in vivo models of OA suggests that pharmaceuticals and natural compounds with antioxidant properties reduce expression of mediators of OA pathogenesis and OA severity in animal models. Among the signaling pathways that control cellular protective mechanisms against oxygen radical damage is heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). We recently report HO-1 reduced OA severity in a mouse model. This led to the hypothesis that compounds that increase HO-1 expression have therapeutic potential in OA. Carnosic acid (CA), a natural diterpene with oxidant activity, is prevents cartilage degeneration though induction of HO-1. CA induced HO-1 and miR-140 expression in human articular chondrocytes, and cartilage degeneration was attenuated by CA treatment. Induced HO-1 by CA was in part associated with downregulation via miR-140 binding to 3’UTR of BTB and CNC homology 1 (BACH1). These findings suggest that CA attenuates cartilage degradation through HO-1 upregulation and has potential as a supplement for OA prevention.

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