Objective: Periarticular osteopenia is frequently observed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Bone loss has been considered to be at least partly due to inadequate bone formation, which in turn, is largely dependent on the number of osteoblasts and the osteoblastic activity. Normal human somatic cells undergo a finite number of cell divisions and ultimately enter a nondividing state called replicative senescence. It has been proposed that the telomere, the terminal sequence of chromosomes, is the mitotic clock that triggers senescence. In the present study, we sought to clarify the relationship between periarticular osteopenia and osteoblast replicative senescence in RA.
Methods: We examined age-related changes in cellular activity (alkaline phosphatase activity, osteocalcin and C-terminal type I procollagen secretion, and cAMP response to parathyroid hormone), replicative capacity, and senescent cell expression in osteoblasts from periarticular bone samples obtained from 15 patients with RA and 15 age-matched patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Cellular replicative capacity was analyzed by the mean telomere length and in vitro remaining replicative lifespan of the cells.
Results: In both OA and RA groups, the cell proliferation rate, the levels of osteoblastic markers, mean telomere length, and replicative lifespan in osteoblastic cells gradually decreased with the increasing age of the donor. The percentage of senescent osteoblastic cells in the periarticular bone increased with age in both groups, and the rate of expression of senescent cells was higher in RA patients than in age-matched OA patients. The osteoblastic activities and replicative capacity of osteoblastic cells from RA patients were lower than those from OA patients at any donor age. The age-related decreases in the osteoblastic activity and replicative capacity of osteoblastic cells from periarticular bone were greater in RA patients than in OA patients.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that osteoblast replicative senescence in periarticular bones occurs more rapidly with aging in RA than in OA patients and contributes to periarticular osteopenia in RA.