Background: Osteoarthritis is a multifactorial disease characterized by destruction of the articular cartilage due to genetic, mechanical and environmental components affecting more than 100 million individuals all over the world. Despite the high prevalence of the disease, the absence of large-scale molecular studies limits our ability to understand the molecular pathobiology of osteoathritis and identify targets for drug development.
Methodology/principal findings: In this study we integrated genetic, bioinformatic and proteomic approaches in order to identify new genes and their collaborative networks involved in osteoarthritis pathogenesis. MicroRNA profiling of patient-derived osteoarthritic cartilage in comparison to normal cartilage, revealed a 16 microRNA osteoarthritis gene signature. Using reverse-phase protein arrays in the same tissues we detected 76 differentially expressed proteins between osteoarthritic and normal chondrocytes. Proteins such as SOX11, FGF23, KLF6, WWOX and GDF15 not implicated previously in the genesis of osteoarthritis were identified. Integration of microRNA and proteomic data with microRNA gene-target prediction algorithms, generated a potential "interactome" network consisting of 11 microRNAs and 58 proteins linked by 414 potential functional associations. Comparison of the molecular and clinical data, revealed specific microRNAs (miR-22, miR-103) and proteins (PPARA, BMP7, IL1B) to be highly correlated with Body Mass Index (BMI). Experimental validation revealed that miR-22 regulated PPARA and BMP7 expression and its inhibition blocked inflammatory and catabolic changes in osteoarthritic chondrocytes.
Conclusions/significance: Our findings indicate that obesity and inflammation are related to osteoarthritis, a metabolic disease affected by microRNA deregulation. Gene network approaches provide new insights for elucidating the complexity of diseases such as osteoarthritis. The integration of microRNA, proteomic and clinical data provides a detailed picture of how a network state is correlated with disease and furthermore leads to the development of new treatments. This strategy will help to improve the understanding of the pathogenesis of multifactorial diseases such as osteoarthritis and provide possible novel therapeutic targets.