Open Access Open Badges Research article

Functional relationship between high mobility group A1 (HMGA1) protein and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) in human chondrocytes

Giorgio Gasparini1, Marco De Gori1, Francesco Paonessa2, Eusebio Chiefari3, Antonio Brunetti3 and Olimpio Galasso1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopedics, Magna Græcia University, V.le Europa, Catanzaro, 88100 Italy

2 Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Via Morego, Genoa, 16163 Italy

3 Department of Health Sciences, Magna Græcia University, V.le Europa, Catanzaro, 88100 Italy

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R207  doi:10.1186/ar4045

Published: 4 October 2012



Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) regulates articular cartilage homeostasis. During osteoarthritis (OA), the anabolic responses of chondrocytes to IGF-I are likely to be prevented by the enhanced production of IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs), especially IGFBP-3. The aim of this study is to evaluate whether the architectural transcription factor high mobility group A1 (HMGA1) influences IGFBP-3 overexpression in vitro, in cultured chondrocytic cell lines, and ex vivo, in human osteoarthritic cartilage compared to healthy human cartilage controls.


Quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) was performed to assess the relative transcript levels of HMGA1 and IGFBP-3 in vitro, in the human chondrocytic cell lines T/C-28a4 and C-28/I2. An electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and transient transfection assays were performed to investigate the HMGA1-IGFBP-3 gene interaction. Samples of articular cartilage were harvested from osteoarthritic patients and controls and analyzed by qRT-PCR for HMGA1 and IGFBP-3 mRNA levels.


A parallelism between HMGA1 protein levels and IGFBP-3 gene expression has been observed in T/C-28a4 and C-28/I2 cells. The interaction of HMGA1 with the IGFBP-3 gene promoter has been demonstrated by EMSA and ChIP. In transient transfections, IGFBP-3 promoter activity increased in cells overexpressing HMGA1 and decreased in cells pretreated with siRNA detected against HMGA1. IGFBP-3 mRNA expression was higher in cartilage from patients with OA, where the increased expression of IGFBP-3 closely paralleled the increased expression of HMGA1 mRNA.


Our observations indicate that increased HMGA1 expression in human chondrocytes is associated with increased expression of IGFBP-3. It is tempting to speculate that, through the regulation of IGFBP3 expression, HMGA1 may act as a pathogenetic factor for OA.