Human adult chondrocytes express hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) isoforms but not HgF: potential implication of osteoblasts on the presence of HGF in cartilage

J Bone Miner Res. 2003 Jun;18(6):1073-81. doi: 10.1359/jbmr.2003.18.6.1073.


HGF is increased in human OA cartilage, possibly from Ob's. RT-PCR shows HGF isoforms are differently regulated between chondrocytes and Ob. A paracrine cross-talk between subchondral bone and cartilage may occur during OA. Recently, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) has been identified by immunohistochemistry in cartilage and more particularly in the deep zone of human osteoarthritic (OA) cartilage. By investigating HGF expression in cartilage, we found that chondrocytes did not express HGF; however, they expressed the two truncated isoforms, namely HGF/NK1 and HGF/NK2. Because the only other cells localized near the deep zone are osteoblasts from the subchondral bone plate, we hypothesized that they were expressing HGF. Indeed, we found that HGF was synthesized by osteoblasts from the subchondral bone plate. Moreover, OA osteoblasts produced five times more HGF than normal osteoblasts and almost no HGF/NK1, unlike normal osteoblasts. Because prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-6 are involved in OA progression, we investigated whether these factors impact HGF produced by normal osteoblasts. PGE2 was the only factor tested that was able to stimulate HGF synthesis. However, the addition of NS398, a selective inhibitor of cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) had no effect on HGF produced by OA osteoblasts. HGF/NK2 had a moderate stimulating effect on HGF production by normal osteoblasts, whereas osteocalcin was not modulated by either HGF or HGF/NK2. When investigating signaling routes that might be implicated in OA osteoblast-produced HGF, we found that protein kinase A was at least partially involved. In summary, this study raises the hypothesis that the HGF found in articular cartilage is produced by osteoblasts, diffuses into the cartilage, and may be implicated in the OA process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy
  • Base Sequence
  • Cartilage / cytology
  • Cartilage / pathology
  • Cartilage / physiology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Chondrocytes / physiology*
  • DNA Primers
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / analysis
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Osteoblasts / physiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protein Isoforms / analysis
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics*


  • DNA Primers
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Hepatocyte Growth Factor