Objective: Chondrocytes and alteration in chondrocyte differentiation play a central role in osteoarthritis. Chondrocyte differentiation is amongst others regulated by members of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily. The major intracellular signaling routes of this family are via the receptor-Smads. This review is focused on the modulation of receptor-Smad signaling and how this modulation can affect chondrocyte differentiation and potentially osteoarthritis development.
Methods: Peer reviewed publications published prior to April 2009 were searched in the Pubmed database. Articles that were relevant for the role of TGF-beta superfamily/Smad signaling in chondrocyte differentiation and for differential modulation of receptor-Smads were selected.
Results: Chondrocyte terminal differentiation is stimulated by Smad1/5/8 activation and inhibited the by Smad2/3 pathway, most likely by modulation of Runx2 function. Several proteins and signaling pathways differentially affect Smad1/5/8 and Smad2/3 signaling. This will result in an altered Smad1/5/8 and Smad2/3 balance and subsequently have an effect on chondrocyte differentiation and osteoarthritis development.
Conclusion: Modulation of receptor-Smads signaling can be expect to play an essential role in both the regulation of chondrocyte differentiation and osteoarthritis development and progression.