Open Access Open Badges Research article

Calcium deposition in osteoarthritic meniscus and meniscal cell culture

Yubo Sun1*, David R Mauerhan1, Patrick R Honeycutt1, Jeffrey S Kneisl1, H James Norton2, Natalia Zinchenko1, Edward N Hanley1 and Helen E Gruber1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center, PO Box 32861, Charlotte, NC 28232, USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, Carolinas Medical Center, PO Box 32861, Charlotte, NC 28232, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2010, 12:R56  doi:10.1186/ar2968

See related editorial by MacMullan and McCarthy,

Published: 30 March 2010



Calcium crystals exist in the knee joint fluid of up to 65% of osteoarthritis (OA) patients and the presence of these calcium crystals correlates with the radiographic evidence of hyaline cartilaginous degeneration. This study sought to examine calcium deposition in OA meniscus and to investigate OA meniscal cell-mediated calcium deposition. The hypothesis was that OA meniscal cells may play a role in pathological meniscal calcification.


Studies were approved by our human subjects Institutional Review Board. Menisci were collected during joint replacement surgeries for OA patients and during limb amputation surgeries for osteosarcoma patients. Calcium deposits in menisci were examined by alizarin red staining. Expression of genes involved in biomineralization in OA meniscal cells was examined by microarray and real-time RT-PCR. Cell-mediated calcium deposition in monolayer culture of meniscal cells was examined using an ATP-induced 45calcium deposition assay.


Calcium depositions were detected in OA menisci but not in normal menisci. The expression of several genes involved in biomineralization including ENPP1 and ANKH was upregulated in OA meniscal cells. Consistently, ATP-induced calcium deposition in the monolayer culture of OA meniscal cells was much higher than that in the monolayer culture of control meniscal cells.


Calcium deposition is common in OA menisci. OA meniscal cells calcify more readily than normal meniscal cells. Pathological meniscal calcification, which may alter the biomechanical properties of the knee meniscus, is potentially an important contributory factor to OA.