Cartilage degeneration and excessive subchondral bone formation in spontaneous osteoarthritis involves altered TGF-β signaling

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Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) has been demonstrated as a potential therapeutic target in osteoarthritis. However, beneficial effects of TGF-β supplement and inhibition have both been reported, suggesting characterization of the spatiotemporal distribution of TGF-β during the whole time course of osteoarthritis is important. To investigate the activity of TGF-β in osteoarthritis progression, we collected knee joints from Dunkin–Hartley (DH) guinea pigs at 3, 6, 9, and 12-month old (n = 8), which develop spontaneous osteoarthritis in a manner extraordinarily similar to humans. Via histology and micro-computed tomography (CT) analysis, we found that the joints exhibited gradual cartilage degeneration, subchondral plate sclerosis, and elevated bone remodeling during aging. The degenerating cartilage showed a progressive switch of the expression of phosphorylated Smad2/3 to Smad1/5/8, suggesting dual roles of TGF-β/Smad signaling during chondrocyte terminal differentiation in osteoarthritis progression. In subchondral bone, we found that the locations and age-related changes of osterix+ osteoprogenitors were in parallel with active TGF-β, which implied the excessive osteogenesis may link to the activity of TGF-β. Our study, therefore, suggests an association of cartilage degeneration and excessive bone remodeling with altered TGF-β signaling in osteoarthritis progression of DH guinea pigs. © 2015 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 34:763–770, 2016.

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