Disruption of glucocorticoid signaling in chondrocytes delays metaphyseal fracture healing but does not affect normal cartilage and bone development.

PMID 25193158


States of glucocorticoid excess are associated with defects in chondrocyte function. Most prominently there is a reduction in linear growth but delayed healing of fractures that require endochondral ossification to also occur. In contrast, little is known about the role of endogenous glucocorticoids in chondrocyte function. As glucocorticoids exert their cellular actions through the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), we aimed to elucidate the role of endogenous glucocorticoids in chondrocyte function in vivo through characterization of tamoxifen-inducible chondrocyte-specific GR knockout (chGRKO) mice in which the GR was deleted at various post-natal ages. Knee joint architecture, cartilage structure, growth plates, intervertebral discs, long bone length and bone micro-architecture were similar in chGRKO and control mice at all ages. Analysis of fracture healing in chGRKO and control mice demonstrated that in metaphyseal fractures, chGRKO mice formed a larger cartilaginous callus at 1 and 2 week post-surgery, as well as a smaller amount of well-mineralized bony callus at the fracture site 4 week post-surgery, when compared to control mice. In contrast, chondrocyte-specific GR knockout did not affect diaphyseal fracture healing. We conclude that endogenous GC signaling in chondrocytes plays an important role during metaphyseal fracture healing but is not essential for normal long bone growth.