Objective: To investigate the relationship between increased discoidin domain receptor 2 (DDR-2) expression and cartilage damage in osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Full-thickness cartilage tissue samples from 16 human knee joints were obtained and the grade of cartilage damage was evaluated according to the Mankin scale. Expression of DDR-2, matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13), and MMP-derived type II collagen fragments was visualized immunohistochemically. Moreover, upon stimulation with either type II collagen or gelatin, levels of DDR-2 and MMP-13 messenger RNA (mRNA) in primary human articular chondrocytes were assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Results: Immunohistochemical analysis showed an increase in DDR-2 expression in human articular cartilage, which was correlated with the degree of tissue damage. In parallel, the extent of MMP-13 and type II collagen breakdown products was elevated as a function of increased DDR-2 expression and cartilage damage. Furthermore, in vitro experiments revealed an up-regulation of both DDR-2 and MMP-13 mRNA in human articular chondrocytes after stimulation with type II collagen.
Conclusion: Our data indicate that 3 factors, DDR-2 expression, MMP-13 expression, and the degree of cartilage damage, are linked, such that DDR-2 promotes tissue catabolism, and tissue degradation promotes DDR-2 up-regulation and activation. Thus, the perpetuation of DDR-2 expression and activation can be seen as a vicious circle that ultimately leads to cartilage destruction in OA.