Stimulation of BMP-2 expression by pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1 and TNF-alpha in normal and osteoarthritic chondrocytes

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2003;85-A Suppl 3:59-66. doi: 10.2106/00004623-200300003-00011.


Background: Destruction of cartilage in osteoarthritis is a direct effect of an imbalance between catabolic and anabolic activities in the tissue. While a great deal is known about catabolism, we sought to determine the biochemical basis of the anabolic activity.

Methods: Cartilage was isolated from normal and osteoarthritic patients and subjected to both cell and explant culture. mRNA expression levels of the growth and differentiation factors bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2), BMP-4, BMP-6, cartilage-derived morphogenetic protein-1 (CDMP-1), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), and activin were determined. BMP-2 was localized in osteoarthritic cartilage by immunohistochemistry. To determine the mechanism of BMP-2 stimulation, chondrocytes were cultured with TGF-beta (transforming growth factor-beta), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). The BMP-2 response was monitored by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction to ascertain mRNA levels and by Western blot analysis, BMP-2 protein quantitation, and immunohistochemistry to determine protein levels.

Results: BMP-2 was found to be up-regulated in osteoarthritic chondrocytes and cartilage. In cell culture, IL-1beta and TNF-alpha increased BMP-2 mRNA and protein levels by eightfold and fifteenfold, respectively, whereas IGF-1 and TGF-beta1 had no effect. In cartilage explant cultures, IL-1beta and TNF-alpha increased BMP-2 levels both intracellularly and extracellularly. Functional relevance was suggested by co-localization of BMP-2 and newly synthesized type-II procollagen within the same cells.

Conclusions: BMP-2 acts as a stimulus of anabolic activities in normal and osteoarthritic chondrocytes. Furthermore, the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta and TNF-alpha, known to be present in synovium and cartilage of patients with osteoarthritis, stimulate the production of active BMP-2.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics*
  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / cytology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / immunology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • BMP2 protein, human
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Interleukin-1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha