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Repression of anti-proliferative factor Tob1 in osteoarthritic cartilage

Mathias Gebauer1, Joachim Saas2, Jochen Haag3, Uwe Dietz2, Masaharu Takigawa4, Eckart Bartnik2 and Thomas Aigner3*

Author Affiliations

1 Aventis Pharma Deutschland, Functional Genomics, Sanofi-Aventis, Frankfurt, Germany

2 Sanofi-Aventis, Disease Group Thrombotic Diseases/Degenerative Joint Diseases, Frankfurt, Germany

3 Osteoarticular and Arthritis Research, Department of Pathology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

4 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Dentistry, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry, Okayama, Japan

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Arthritis Res Ther 2005, 7:R274-R284  doi:10.1186/ar1479

Published: 11 January 2005


Osteoarthritis is the most common degenerative disorder of the modern world. However, many basic cellular features and molecular processes of the disease are poorly understood. In the present study we used oligonucleotide-based microarray analysis of genes of known or assumed relevance to the cellular phenotype to screen for relevant differences in gene expression between normal and osteoarthritic chondrocytes. Custom made oligonucleotide DNA arrays were used to screen for differentially expressed genes in normal (n = 9) and osteoarthritic (n = 10) cartilage samples. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with gene-specific primers was used for quantification. Primary human adult articular chondrocytes and chondrosarcoma cell line HCS-2/8 were used to study changes in gene expression levels after stimulation with interleukin-1β and bone morphogenetic protein, as well as the dependence on cell differentiation. In situ hybridization with a gene-specific probe was applied to detect mRNA expression levels in fetal growth plate cartilage. Overall, more than 200 significantly regulated genes were detected between normal and osteoarthritic cartilage (P < 0.01). One of the significantly repressed genes, Tob1, encodes a protein belonging to a family involved in silencing cells in terms of proliferation and functional activity. The repression of Tob1 was confirmed by quantitative PCR and correlated to markers of chondrocyte activity and proliferation in vivo. Tob1 expression was also detected at a decreased level in isolated chondrocytes and in the chondrosarcoma cell line HCS-2/8. Again, in these cells it was negatively correlated with proliferative activity and positively with cellular differentiation. Altogether, the downregulation of the expression of Tob1 in osteoarthritic chondrocytes might be an important aspect of the cellular processes taking place during osteoarthritic cartilage degeneration. Activation, the reinitiation of proliferative activity and the loss of a stable phenotype are three major changes in osteoarthritic chondrocytes that are highly significantly correlated with the repression of Tob1 expression.

bone morphogenetic protein; cartilage; chondrocytes; gene expression; proliferation