Objective: Type II collagen degradation is thought to be the key process in cartilage degradation during the development of osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, we investigated the kinetics of type II collagen degradation during surgically induced OA.
Methods: Experimental OA was induced in male Wistar rats by transecting the cranial (anterior) cruciate ligament (CCL). Hematoxylin and eosin staining was used to study overall cartilage degradation, while immunostained sections were used to demonstrate denatured type II collagen (Col2-3/4m antibody) and the collagenase cleavage site in type II collagen (Col2-3/ 4Cshort antibody).
Results: During the first 3-4 weeks, cartilage destruction, associated with chondrocyte death, proteoglycan depletion, and a marked increase in the collagenase cleavage neoepitope, was mainly located at the margins of the cartilage. From weeks 3-4, the central part of the cartilage showed increased surface fibrillation and apparent chondrocyte death. In these areas, increased denatured type II collagen staining but little cleavage-site staining was present.
Conclusion: These results indicate that cartilage degradation after CCL transection in the rat consists of 2 phases. An early phase located at the cartilage margins and a late phase located at the central part of the cartilage. In the early phase, collagenase-dependent cartilage damage occurred. During the late phase, the level of type II collagen denaturation increased.