Degradative enzymes in osteoarthritis

Front Biosci. 1999 Oct 15;4:D704-12. doi: 10.2741/a388.


A central feature of the osteoarthritic disease process involves erosive destruction of the articular cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) on the surfaces of diarthrotic joints. The resultant loss of joint function makes studies on mechanisms underlying ECM degradation critical for treatment of the disease and prevention of disability. Candidate pathways to account for the loss of cartilage involve expression of a combination of proteases that degrade the major cartilage matrix macromolecules, aggrecan and type II collagen. The specific types of enzymatic activities associated with the progressive removal of ECM and severity of joint disease include the matrix metalloproteinases, collagenase, gelatinase and aggrecanase(s). The degradative enzymes originate in synovial cells, cartilage cells, the chondrocytes, distributed within the ECM and leukocytes that actively invade the joint space. Specific enzymes arising from each of these tissues exhibit selective ECM degrading properties; the different categories of these tissue-derived enzymes will be discussed in this chapter. A perspective on the efficacy of existing agents and the potential for development of novel therapeutic agents is also included. While the degradative enzymes serve as a focal point for therapeutic intervention, a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms underlying degradative enzyme expression in osteoarthritis remains an important goal for prevention of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology
  • Chondrocytes / enzymology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Joint Capsule / enzymology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / physiology*
  • Osteoarthritis / enzymology*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy


  • Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases