Introduction: Hypoxia is considered to be a positive influence on the healthy chondrocyte phenotype and cartilage matrix formation. However, hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA). Thus, we assessed whether healthy and OA chondrocytes have distinct responses to oxygen, particularly with regard to hypertrophy and degradation during redifferentiation.Methods: Monolayer-expanded healthy and OA chondrocytes were redifferentiated for 14 days in pellet cultures under standard (20% oxygen) or hypoxic (2% oxygen) conditions. Cartilage matrix gene expression, matrix quality and quantity, degradative enzyme expression and HIF expression were measured.Results: In hypoxia, both healthy and OA chondrocytes had higher human collagen type II, α1 gene (COL2A1), and aggrecan (ACAN) expression and sulfated glycosaminoglycan (sGAG) accumulation, concomitant with lower human collagen type X, α1 gene (COL10A1), and human collagen type I, α1 gene (COL1A1), expression and collagen I extracellular accumulation. OA chondrocytes had significantly lower sGAGs/DNA than healthy chondrocytes, but only in high oxygen conditions. Hypoxia also caused significantly greater sGAG retention and hyaluronic acid synthase 2 (HAS2) expression by OA chondrocytes. Both healthy and OA chondrocytes had significantly lower expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) MMP1, MMP2, MMP3 and MMP13 in hypoxia and less active MMP2 enzyme, consistent with lower MMP14 expression. However, aggrecanase (ADAMTS4 and ADAMTS5) expression was significantly lowered by hypoxia only in healthy cells, and COL10A1 and MMP13 remained significantly higher in OA chondrocytes than in healthy chondrocytes in hypoxic conditions. HIF-1α and HIF-2α had similar expression profiles in healthy and OA cells, increasing to maximal levels early in hypoxia and decreasing over time.Conclusions: Hypoxic culture of human chondrocytes has long been acknowledged to result in increased matrix accumulation, but still little is known of its effects on catabolism. We show herein that the increased expression of matrix proteins, combined with decreased expression of numerous degradative enzymes by hypoxia, minimizes but does not abolish differences between redifferentiated healthy and OA chondrocytes. Hypoxia-induced HIF expression is associated with hypertrophic marker and degradative enzyme downregulation and increased measures of redifferentiation in both healthy and OA chondrocytes. Therefore, though HIFs may be involved in the pathogenesis of OA, conditions that promote HIF expression in vitro promote matrix accumulation and decrease degradation and hypertrophy, even in cells from OA joints.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy