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TGF β-induced cartilage repair is maintained but fibrosis is blocked in the presence of Smad7

Esmeralda N Blaney Davidson*, Elly L Vitters, Wim B van den Berg and Peter M van der Kraan

Author Affiliations

Experimental Rheumatology and Advanced Therapeutics, St. Radboud University Medical Centre Nijmegen, Geert Grooteplein 26-28, 6525 GA Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2006, 8:R65  doi:10.1186/ar1931

Published: 29 March 2006


Cartilage damage in osteoarthritis (OA) is considered an imbalance between catabolic and anabolic factors, favoring the catabolic side. We assessed whether adenoviral overexpression of transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) enhanced cartilage repair and whether TGFβ-induced fibrosis was blocked by local expression of the intracellular TGFβ inhibitor Smad7. We inflicted cartilage damage by injection of interleukin-1 (IL-1) into murine knee joints. After 2 days, we injected an adenovirus encoding TGFβ. On day 4, we measured proteoglycan (PG) synthesis and content. To examine whether we could block TGFβ-induced fibrosis and stimulate cartilage repair simultaneously, we injected Ad-TGFβ and Ad-Smad7. This was performed both after IL-1-induced damage and in a model of primary OA. In addition to PG in cartilage, synovial fibrosis was measured by determining the synovial width and the number of procollagen I-expressing cells. Adenoviral overexpression of TGFβ restored the IL-1-induced reduction in PG content and increased PG synthesis. TGFβ-induced an elevation in PG content in cartilage of the OA model. TGFβ-induced synovial fibrosis was strongly diminished by simultaneous synovial overexpression of Smad7 in the synovial lining. Of great interest, overexpression of Smad7 did not reduce the repair-stimulating effect of TGFβ on cartilage. Adenoviral overexpression of TGFβ stimulated repair of IL-1- and OA-damaged cartilage. TGFβ-induced synovial fibrosis was blocked by locally inhibiting TGFβ signaling in the synovial lining by simultaneously transfecting it with an adenovirus overexpressing Smad7.