The antioxidant resveratrol protects against chondrocyte apoptosis via effects on mitochondrial polarization and ATP production

Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Sep;58(9):2786-97. doi: 10.1002/art.23799.


Objective: To determine the effects of the antioxidant resveratrol on the functions of human chondrocytes in osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: Chondrocytes and cartilage explants were isolated from OA patients undergoing knee replacement surgery. Effects of resveratrol in the presence or absence of interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) stimulation were assessed by measurement of prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) and leukotriene B(4) (LTB(4)) synthesis, cyclooxygenase (COX) activity, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression, and proteoglycan production. To explore the mechanisms of action of resveratrol, its effects on mitochondrial function and apoptosis were examined by assessing mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP levels, cytochrome c release, and annexin V staining.

Results: Resveratrol inhibited both spontaneous and IL-1beta-induced PGE(2) production by >20% (P < 0.05) and by 80% (P < 0.001), respectively; similarly, LTB(4) production was reduced by >50% (P < 0.05). The production of PGE(2) was inhibited via a 70-90% suppression of COX-2 expression and enzyme activity (P < 0.05). Resveratrol also promoted anabolic effects in OA explant cultures, by elevating proteoglycan synthesis and decreasing production of MMPs 1, 3, and 13. Pretreatment of OA chondrocytes with resveratrol blocked mitochondrial membrane depolarization, loss of mitochondrial biomass, and IL-1beta-induced ATP depletion. Similarly, IL-1beta-mediated induction of the apoptotic markers cytochrome c and annexin V was also inhibited by resveratrol. Exogenous addition of PGE(2) abolished the protective effects of resveratrol on mitochondrial membrane integrity, ATP levels, expression of apoptotic markers, and DNA fragmentation.

Conclusion: Resveratrol protects against IL-1beta-induced catabolic effects and prevents chondrocyte apoptosis via its inhibition of mitochondrial membrane depolarization and ATP depletion. These beneficial effects of resveratrol are due, in part, to its capacity to inhibit COX-2-derived PGE(2) synthesis. Resveratrol may therefore protect against oxidant injury and apoptosis, which are main features of progressive OA.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Annexin A5 / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cartilage / drug effects*
  • Cartilage / metabolism
  • Chondrocytes / drug effects*
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Dinoprostone / biosynthesis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / pharmacology
  • Leukotriene B4 / biosynthesis
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism*
  • Proteoglycans / biosynthesis
  • Resveratrol
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology*


  • Annexin A5
  • Antioxidants
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Proteoglycans
  • Stilbenes
  • Leukotriene B4
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Cytochromes c
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases
  • Dinoprostone
  • Resveratrol