Objective: To investigate the role of matrix metalloproteinase 13 (MMP-13; collagenase 3) in osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: OA was surgically induced in the knees of MMP-13-knockout mice and wild-type mice, and mice were compared. Histologic scoring of femoral and tibial cartilage aggrecan loss (0-3 scale), erosion (0-7 scale), and chondrocyte hypertrophy (0-1 scale), as well as osteophyte size (0-3 scale) and maturity (0-3 scale) was performed. Serial sections were stained for type X collagen and the MMP-generated aggrecan neoepitope DIPEN.
Results: Following surgery, aggrecan loss and cartilage erosion were more severe in the tibia than femur (P<0.01) and tibial cartilage erosion increased with time (P<0.05) in wild-type mice. Cartilaginous osteophytes were present at 4 weeks and underwent ossification, with size and maturity increasing by 8 weeks (P<0.01). There was no difference between genotypes in aggrecan loss or cartilage erosion at 4 weeks. There was less tibial cartilage erosion in knockout mice than in wild-type mice at 8 weeks (P<0.02). Cartilaginous osteophytes were larger in knockout mice at 4 weeks (P<0.01), but by 8 weeks osteophyte maturity and size were no different from those in wild-type mice. Articular chondrocyte hypertrophy with positive type X collagen and DIPEN staining occurred in both wild-type and knockout mouse joints.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that structural cartilage damage in a mouse model of OA is dependent on MMP-13 activity. Chondrocyte hypertrophy is not regulated by MMP-13 activity in this model and does not in itself lead to cartilage erosion. MMP-13 deficiency can inhibit cartilage erosion in the presence of aggrecan depletion, supporting the potential for therapeutic intervention in established OA with MMP-13 inhibitors.