The effects of ascorbic acid on cartilage metabolism in guinea pig articular cartilage explants

Matrix Biol. 2002 Mar;21(2):175-84. doi: 10.1016/s0945-053x(01)00193-7.


Ascorbic acid has been associated with the slowing of osteoarthritis progression in guinea pig and man. The goal of this study was to evaluate transcriptional and translational regulation of cartilage matrix components by ascorbic acid. Guinea pig articular cartilage explants were grown in the presence of L-ascorbic acid (L-Asc), D-isoascorbic acid (D-Asc), sodium L-ascorbate (Na L-Asc), sodium D-isoascorbate (Na D-Asc), or ascorbyl-2-phosphate (A2P) to isolate and analyze the acidic and nutrient effects of ascorbic acid. Transcription of type II collagen, prolyl 4-hydroxylase (alpha subunit), and aggrecan increased in response to the antiscorbutic forms of ascorbic acid (L-Asc, Na L-Asc, and A2P) and was stereospecific to the L-forms. Collagen and aggrecan synthesis also increased in response to the antiscorbutic forms but only in the absence of acidity. All ascorbic acid forms tended to increase oxidative damage over control. This was especially true for the non-nutrient D-forms and the high dose L-Asc. Finally, we investigated the ability of chondrocytes to express the newly described sodium-dependent vitamin C transporters (SVCTs). We identified transcripts for SVCT2 but not SVCT1 in guinea pig cartilage explants. This represents the first characterization of SVCTs in chondrocytes. This study confirms that ascorbic acid stimulates collagen synthesis and in addition modestly stimulates aggrecan synthesis. These effects are exerted at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. The stereospecificity of these effects is consistent with chondrocyte expression of SVCT2, shown previously to transport L-Asc more efficiently than D-Asc. Therefore, this transporter may be the primary mechanism by which the L-forms of ascorbic acid enter the chondrocyte to control matrix gene activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggrecans
  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Collagen / biosynthesis
  • Collagen Type II / genetics*
  • Culture Techniques
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins*
  • Gene Expression
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Male
  • Organic Anion Transporters, Sodium-Dependent / genetics
  • Procollagen-Proline Dioxygenase / genetics*
  • Protein Biosynthesis / drug effects*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteoglycans / biosynthesis
  • Proteoglycans / genetics
  • RNA
  • Sodium-Coupled Vitamin C Transporters
  • Symporters*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*


  • Aggrecans
  • Collagen Type II
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Organic Anion Transporters, Sodium-Dependent
  • Proteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • Sodium-Coupled Vitamin C Transporters
  • Symporters
  • RNA
  • Collagen
  • Procollagen-Proline Dioxygenase
  • Ascorbic Acid