Open Access Open Badges Research article

Shear stress modulates macrophage-induced urokinase plasminogen activator expression in human chondrocytes

Chih-Chang Yeh12, Shun-Fu Chang3, Ting-Ying Huang4, Hsin-I Chang4, Hsing-Chun Kuo5, Yi-Chien Wu4, Ching-Hsiang Hsieh6, Chung-Sheng Shi1 and Cheng-Nan Chen34*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan 333, Taiwan

2 Orthopaedic Department, Chiayi Branch, Taichung Veterans General Hospital, Chiayi 600, Taiwan

3 Biophotonics & Molecular Imaging Research Center, National Yang Ming University, Taipei 112, Taiwan

4 Department of Biochemical Science and Technology, National Chiayi University, Chiayi 600, Taiwan

5 Institute of Nursing and Department of Nursing, Chang Gung University of Science and Technology; Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion Research Center, CGUST, Chiayi 613, Taiwan

6 Orthopaedic Department, Yangming Hospital, Chiayi 600, Taiwan

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R53  doi:10.1186/ar4215

Published: 18 April 2013



Synovial macrophages, which can release proinflammatory factors, are responsible for the upregulation of cartilage-breakdown proteases and play critical roles in cartilage degradation during the progression of osteoarthritis (OA). In addition, shear stress exerts multifunctional effects on chondrocytes by inducing the synthesis of catabolic or anabolic genes. However, the interplay of macrophages, chondrocytes, and shear stress during the regulation of cartilage function remains poorly understood. We investigated the mechanisms underlying the modulation of human chondrocyte urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) expression by macrophages and shear stress.


Human chondrocytes were stimulated by peripheral blood-macrophage- conditioned medium (PB-MCM), or exposure of chondrocytes cultured in PB-MCM to different levels of shear stress (2 to 20 dyn/cm2). Real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to analyze uPA gene expression. Inhibitors and small interfering RNA were used to investigate the mechanism for the effects of PB-MCM and shear stress in chondrocytes.


Stimulation of human chondrocytes with PB-MCM was found to induce uPA expression. We demonstrated that activation of the JNK and Akt pathways and NF-κB are critical for PB-MCM-induced uPA expression. Blocking assays by using IL-1ra further demonstrated that IL-1β in PB-MCM is the major mediator of uPA expression in chondrocytes. PB-MCM-treated chondrocytes subjected to a lower level of shear stress showed inhibition of MCM-induced JNK and Akt phosphorylation, NF-κB activation, and uPA expression. The PB-MCM-induced uPA expression was suppressed by AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) agonist. The inhibitor or siRNA for AMPK abolished the shear-mediated inhibition of uPA expression.


These data support the hypothesis that uPA upregulation stimulated by macrophages may play an active role in the onset of OA and in the shear-stress protection against this induction.