Objectives: To examine the localization of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-2 mRNA and protein in human osteoarthritic (OA) articular cartilage and osteophyte.
Design: Five normal, four growing and 14 OA human cartilage samples, graded histomorphologically by Mankin Score, were studied by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry for the expression of BMP-2.
Results: BMP-2 mRNA was present in chondrocytes in neonatal growing articular cartilage, but was scarcely present in normal adult articular cartilage. In OA articular cartilage, BMP-2 mRNA and protein were detected in both clustering and individual chondrocytes in moderately or severely damaged OA cartilage. In moderately damaged OA cartilage, BMP-2 mRNA was localized in both upper and middle zone chondrocytes, but was not detected in deep layer chondrocytes. In severely damaged OA cartilage, cellular localization of BMP-2 mRNA was extended to the deep zone. In the area of osteophyte formation, BMP-2 mRNA was intensely localized in fibroblastic mesenchymal cells, fibrochondrocytes, chondrocytes and osteoblasts in newly formed osteophytic tissue. The pattern of BMP-2/4 immunolocalization was associated with that of mRNA localization.
Conclusions: BMP-2 mRNA and BMP-2/4 were detected in cells appearing in OA tissues. BMP-2 was localized in cells of degenerating cartilage as well as osteophytic tissue. Given the negative localization of BMP-2 in normal adult articular cartilage, BMP-2 might be involved in the regenerating and anabolic activities of OA cells, which respond to cartilage damage occurring in osteoarthritis.