Cartilage degeneration in different human joints

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2005 Feb;13(2):93-103. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2004.11.006.


Variations among joints in the initiation and progression of degeneration may be explained, in part, by metabolic, biochemical and biomechanical differences. Compared to the cartilage in the knee joint, ankle cartilage has a higher content of proteoglycans and water, as well as an increased rate of proteoglycan turnover and synthesis, all of which are responsible for its increased stiffness and reduced permeability. Chondrocytes within ankle cartilage have a decreased response to catabolic factors such as interleukin-1 and fibronectin fragments, compared to the chondrocytes of knee cartilage. Moreover, in response to damage, ankle chondrocytes synthesize proteoglycans at a higher rate than that found in knee cartilage chondrocytes, which suggests a greater capacity for repair. In addition to the cartilages of the two joints, the underlying bones also respond differently to degenerative changes. Taken together, these metabolic, biochemical and biomechanical differences may provide protection to the ankle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / metabolism
  • Ankle Joint / pathology
  • Ankle Joint / physiopathology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiopathology
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Chondrocytes / pathology
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Joints / metabolism
  • Joints / pathology*
  • Joints / physiopathology
  • Knee Joint / metabolism
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology
  • Proteoglycans / biosynthesis


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Proteoglycans