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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Tumor necrosis factor alpha and epidermal growth factor act additively to inhibit matrix gene expression by chondrocyte

Aaron R Klooster and Suzanne M Bernier*

Author Affiliations

CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

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Arthritis Res Ther 2005, 7:R127-R138  doi:10.1186/ar1464

Published: 29 November 2004


The failure of chondrocytes to replace the lost extracellular matrix contributes to the progression of degenerative disorders of cartilage. Inflammatory mediators present in the joint regulate the breakdown of the established matrix and the synthesis of new extracellular matrix molecules. In the present study, we investigated the effects of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) on chondrocyte morphology and matrix gene expression. Chondrocytes were isolated from distal femoral condyles of neonatal rats. Cells in primary culture displayed a cobblestone appearance. EGF, but not TNF-α, increased the number of cells exhibiting an elongated morphology. TNF-α potentiated the effect of EGF on chondrocyte morphology. Individually, TNF-α and EGF diminished levels of aggrecan and type II collagen mRNA. In combination, the effects of TNF-α and EGF were additive, indicating the involvement of discrete signaling pathways. Cell viability was not compromised by TNF-α or by EGF, alone or in combination. EGF alone did not activate NF-κB or alter NF-κB activation by TNF-α. Pharmacologic studies indicated that the effects of TNF-α and EGF alone or in combination were independent of protein kinase C signaling, but were dependent on MEK1/2 activity. Finally, we analyzed the involvement of Sox-9 using a reporter construct of the 48 base pair minimal enhancer of type II collagen. TNF-α attenuated enhancer activity as expected; in contrast, EGF did not alter either the effect of TNF-α or basal activity. TNF-α and EGF, acting through distinct signaling pathways, thus have additive adverse effects on chondrocyte function. These findings provide critical insights into the control of chondrocytes through the integration of multiple extracellular signals.

chondrocyte; epidermal growth factor; extracellular matrix; signaling; tumor necrosis factor alpha