Injurious mechanical compression of bovine articular cartilage induces chondrocyte apoptosis.

Center for Biomedical Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.
Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics (Impact Factor: 3.04). 09/2000; 381(2):205-12. DOI: 10.1006/abbi.2000.1988
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A bovine cartilage explant system was used to evaluate the effects of injurious compression on chondrocyte apoptosis and matrix biochemical and biomechanical properties within intact cartilage. Disks of newborn bovine articular cartilage were compressed in vitro to various peak stress levels and chondrocyte apoptotic cell death, tissue biomechanical properties, tissue swelling, glycosaminoglycan loss, and nitrite levels were quantified. Chondrocyte apoptosis occurred at peak stresses as low as 4.5 MPa and increased with peak stress in a dose-dependent manner. This increase in apoptosis was maximal by 24 h after the termination of the loading protocol. At high peak stresses (>20 MPa), greater than 50% of cells apoptosed. When measured in uniaxial confined compression, the equilibrium and dynamic stiffness of explants decreased with the severity of injurious load, although this trend was not significant until 24-MPa peak stress. In contrast, the equilibrium and dynamic stiffness measured in radially unconfined compression decreased significantly after injurious stresses of 12 and 7 MPa, respectively. Together, these results suggested that injurious compression caused a degradation of the collagen fibril network in the 7- to 12-MPa range. Consistent with this hypothesis, injurious compression caused a dose-dependent increase in tissue swelling, significant by 13-MPa peak stress. Glycosaminoglycans were also released from the cartilage in a dose-dependent manner, significant by 6- to 13-MPa peak stress. Nitrite levels were significantly increased above controls at 20-MPa peak stress. Together, these data suggest that injurious compression can stimulate cell death as well as a range of biomechanical and biochemical alterations to the matrix and, possibly, chondrocyte nitric oxide expression. Interestingly, chondrocyte programmed cell death appears to take place at stresses lower than those required to stimulate cartilage matrix degradation and biomechanical changes. While chondrocyte apoptosis may therefore be one of the earliest responses to tissue injury, it is currently unclear whether this initial cellular response subsequently drives cartilage matrix degradation and changes in the biomechanical properties of the tissue.

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