Objective: The majority of cytokines and growth factors known to be involved in cartilage metabolism are synthesized by the chondrocytes themselves. They are up-regulated in osteoarthritic (OA) cartilage, resulting in 2 opposite phenotypes, TNFalpha(high) and TNFalpha(low), that are characterized by an elevated number of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha)-positive and interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta)-positive chondrocytes, respectively. To establish a hierarchy among the cytokines and growth factors expressed in articular chondrocytes, this study investigated cytokine genes for known polymorphisms that may contribute to the deregulated expression in OA cartilage.
Methods: Polymerase chain reaction techniques were performed either in a thermal cycler using standard methods or in a light cycler to analyze the frequencies of the TNFalpha (-308), IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) (intron 2), IL-1beta (exon 5), and IL-6 (-174) polymorphisms in 61 OA patients and 254 randomly chosen controls.
Results: For the TNFalpha(low) phenotype, a statistically significant association was found with the less frequent allele of IL-1beta, which carries a single-basepair substitution in exon 5 and may contribute to the characteristic increase in IL-beta-positive chondrocytes. In contrast, the TNFalpha(high) phenotype was significantly associated with the less frequent allele of IL-1Ra, which carries two 86-bp repeats in the second intron and is assumed to lead to an elevated expression of the antagonist.
Conclusion: These results point to an association between the IL-1beta polymorphism and the TNFalpha(high) phenotype and between the IL-1Ra polymorphism and the TNFalpha(low) phenotype found in OA. Both associations suggest that IL-1beta may be more important than TNFalpha for the regulation of cytokine and growth factor expression in articular chondrocytes.