The ghrelin paradox in the control of equine chondrocyte function: The good and the bad

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Increasing evidence suggests a role for ghrelin in the control of articular inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis (OA). In the present study we examined the ability of ghrelin to counteract LPS-induced necrosis and apoptosis of chondrocytes and the involvement of GH secretagogue receptor (GHS-R)1a in the protective action of ghrelin.

The effects of ghrelin (10−7–10−11 mol/L) on equine primary cultured chondrocytes viability and necrosis in basal conditions and under LPS treatment (100 ng/ml) were detected by using both acridine orange/propidium iodide staining and annexin-5/propidium iodide staining. The presence of GHS-R1a on chondrocytes was detected by Western Blot. The involvement of the GHS-R1a in the ghrelin effect against LPS-induced cytotoxicity was examined by pretreating chondrocytes with D-Lys3-GHRP-6, a specific GHS-R1a antagonist, and by using des-acyl ghrelin (DAG, 10−7 and 10−9 mol/L) which did not recognize the GHS-R 1a.

Low ghrelin concentrations reduced chondrocyte viability whereas 10−7 mol/L ghrelin protects against LPS-induced cellular damage. The protective effect of ghrelin depends on the interaction with the GHS-R1a since it is significantly reduced by D-Lys3-GHRP-6. The negative action of ghrelin involves caspase activation and could be due to an interaction with a GHS-R type different from the GHS-R1a recognized by both low ghrelin concentrations and DAG. DAG, in fact, induces a dose-dependent decrease in chondrocyte viability and exacerbates LPS-induced damage.

These data indicate that ghrelin protects chondrocytes against LPS-induced damage via interaction with GHS-R1a and suggest the potential utility of local GHS-R1a agonist administration to treat articular inflammatory diseases such as OA.

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