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Osteoarthritis and cartilage

The high affinity ALK1-ligand BMP9 induces a hypertrophy-like state in chondrocytes that is antagonized by TGFβ1.


PMID 25681563

Abstract

In osteoarthritic cartilage, expression of the receptor ALK1 correlates with markers of deleterious chondrocyte hypertrophy. Recently, bone morphogenetic protein 9 (BMP9) was identified as a high affinity ligand for ALK1. Therefore, we studied if BMP9 signaling results in expression of hypertrophy markers in chondrocytes. Furthermore, because transforming growth factorß1 (TGFβ1) is a well known anti-hypertrophic factor, the interaction between BMP9 and TGFβ1 signaling was also studied. Primary chondrocytes were isolated from bovine cartilage and stimulated with BMP9 and/or TGFβ1 to measure intracellular signaling via pSmads with the use of Western blot. Expression of Smad-responsive genes or hypertrophy-marker genes was measured using qPCR. To confirm observations on TGFβ/Smad3 responsive genes, a Smad3-dependent CAGA12-luc transcriptional reporter assay was performed in the chondrocyte G6 cell line. In primary chondrocytes, BMP9 potently induced phosphorylation of Smad1/5 and Smad2 to a lesser extent. BMP9-induced Smad1/5 phosphorylation was rapidly (2 h) reflected in gene expression, whereas Smad2 phosphorylation was not. Remarkably, BMP9 and TGFβ1 dose-dependently synergized on Smad2 phosphorylation, and showed an additive effect on expression of Smad3-dependent genes like bSerpine1 after 24 h. The activation of the TGFβ/Smad3 signaling cascade was confirmed using the CAGA12-luc transcriptional reporter. BMP9 selectively induced bAlpl and bColX expression, which are considered early markers of cellular hypertrophy, but this was potently antagonized by addition of a low dose of TGFβ1. This study shows that in vitro in chondrocytes, BMP9 potently induces pSmad1/5 and a chondrocyte hypertrophy-like state, which is potently blocked by TGFβ1. This observation underlines the importance of TGFβ1 in maintenance of chondrocyte phenotype.