IJMS, Vol. 23, Pages 182: ER Stress in ERp57 Knockout Knee Joint Chondrocytes Induces Osteoarthritic Cartilage Degradation and Osteophyte Formation

International Journal of Molecular Sciences doi: 10.3390/ijms23010182

Yvonne Rellmann
Elco Eidhof
Uwe Hansen
Lutz Fleischhauer
Jonas Vogel
Hauke Clausen-Schaumann
Attila Aszodi
Rita Dreier

Ageing or obesity are risk factors for protein aggregation in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of chondrocytes. This condition is called ER stress and leads to induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR), which, depending on the stress level, restores normal cell function or initiates apoptotic cell death. Here the role of ER stress in knee osteoarthritis (OA) was evaluated. It was first tested in vitro and in vivo whether a knockout (KO) of the protein disulfide isomerase ERp57 in chondrocytes induces sufficient ER stress for such analyses. ER stress in ERp57 KO chondrocytes was confirmed by immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy. Knee joints of wildtype (WT) and cartilage-specific ERp57 KO mice (ERp57 cKO) were analyzed by indentation-type atomic force microscopy (IT-AFM), toluidine blue, and immunofluorescence/-histochemical staining. Apoptotic cell death was investigated by a TUNEL assay. Additionally, OA was induced via forced exercise on a treadmill. ER stress in chondrocytes resulted in a reduced compressive stiffness of knee cartilage. With ER stress, 18-month-old mice developed osteoarthritic cartilage degeneration with osteophyte formation in knee joints. These degenerative changes were preceded by apoptotic death in articular chondrocytes. Young mice were not susceptible to OA, even when subjected to forced exercise. This study demonstrates that ER stress induces the development of age-related knee osteoarthritis owing to a decreased protective function of the UPR in chondrocytes with increasing age, while apoptosis increases. Therefore, inhibition of ER stress appears to be an attractive therapeutic target for OA.

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