Osteoarthritis (OA) is a slow-progressing joint disease, leading to the degradation and remodeling of the cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM). The usually quiescent chondrocytes become reactivated and accumulate in cell clusters, become hypertrophic, and intensively produce not only degrading enzymes, but also ECM proteins, like the cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and thrombospondin-4 (TSP-4). To date, the functional roles of these newly synthesized proteins in articular cartilage are still elusive. Therefore, we analyzed the involvement of both proteins in OA specific processes in in vitro studies, using porcine chondrocytes, isolated from femoral condyles. The effect of COMP and TSP-4 on chondrocyte migration was investigated in transwell assays and their potential to modulate the chondrocyte phenotype, protein synthesis and matrix formation by immunofluorescence staining and immunoblot. Our results demonstrate that COMP could attract chondrocytes and may contribute to a repopulation of damaged cartilage areas, while TSP-4 did not affect this process. In contrast, both proteins similarly promoted the synthesis and matrix formation of collagen II, IX, XII and proteoglycans, but inhibited that of collagen I and X, resulting in a stabilized chondrocyte phenotype. These data suggest that COMP and TSP-4 activate mechanisms to protect and repair the ECM in articular cartilage.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 721432 (to K.M., E.A.S., E.F. and F.Z.). Parts of this work were funded by the German Research Foundation through RU2722, project number 407168728 (to F.Z.).
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