The infrapatellar fat pad in knee osteoarthritis: an important source of interleukin-6 and its soluble receptor

Arthritis Rheum. 2009 Nov;60(11):3374-7. doi: 10.1002/art.24881.


Objective: Obesity is a potent risk factor in knee osteoarthritis (OA). It has been suggested that adipokines, secreted by adipose tissue (AT) and largely found in the synovial fluid of OA patients, derive in part from the infrapatellar fat pad (IFP), also known as Hoffa's fat pad. The goal of this study was to characterize IFP tissue in obese OA patients and to compare its features with thigh subcutaneous AT to determine whether the IFP contributes to local inflammation in knee OA via production of specific cytokines.

Methods: IFP and subcutaneous AT samples were obtained from 11 obese women (body mass index > or =30 kg/m2) with knee femorotibial OA. Gene expression was measured by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Cytokine concentrations in plasma and in conditioned media of cultured AT explants were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or by Luminex xMAP technology.

Results: In IFP tissue versus subcutaneous AT, there was a decrease in the expression of genes for key enzymes implicated in adipocyte lipid metabolism, whereas the expression levels of genes for AT markers remained similar. A 2-fold increase in the expression of the gene for interleukin-6 (IL-6), a 2-fold increase in the release of IL-6, and a 3.6-fold increase in the release of soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6R) were observed in IFP samples, compared with subcutaneous AT, but the rates of secretion of other cytokines in IFP samples were similar to the rates in subcutaneous AT. In addition, leptin secretion was decreased by 40%, whereas adiponectin secretion was increased by 70%, in IFP samples versus subcutaneous AT.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that the IFP cytokine profile typically found in OA patients could play a role in paracrine inflammation via the local production of IL-6/sIL-6R and that such a profile might contribute to damage in adjacent cartilage.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Knee Joint
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism
  • Thigh


  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6