Emerging evidence suggests that dysregulated microRNAs (miRNAs) play a pivotal role in osteoarthritis (OA), but the role of specific miRNAs remains unclear. Accordingly, we identified OA-associated miRNAs and functional validation of results. Here, we demonstrate that miR-218-5p is significantly upregulated in moderate and severe OA and correlates with scores on a modified Mankin scale. Through gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies, miR-218-5p was shown to significantly affect matrix synthesis gene expression and chondrocyte proliferation and apoptosis. Using SW1353 and C28/I2 cells, PIK3C2A mRNA was identified as a target of miR-218-5p. Downregulation of miR-218-5p dramatically promoted expression of PIK3C2A and its downstream target proteins, such as Akt, mTOR, S6, and 4EBP1. More importantly, OA mice exposed to a miR-218-5p inhibitor were protected from cartilage degradation and had reduced proteoglycan loss and reduced loss of articular chondrocyte cellularity compared with control mice. miR-218-5p is a novel inducer of cartilage destruction via modulation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling. Inhibition of endogenous miR-218-5p expression/activity appears to be an attractive approach to OA treatment.
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