Articular cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis has been linked to abnormal mechanical stresses that are known to cause chondrocyte apoptosis and metabolic derangement in in vitro models. Evidence implicating oxidative damage as the immediate cause of these harmful effects suggests that the antioxidant defenses of chondrocytes might influence their tolerance for mechanical injury. Based on evidence that antioxidant defenses in many cell types are stimulated by moderate oxidant exposure, we hypothesized that oxidant preconditioning would reduce acute chondrocyte death and proteoglycan depletion in cartilage explants after exposure to abnormal mechanical stresses. Porcine cartilage explants were treated every 48 h with tert-butyl hydrogen peroxide (tBHP) at nonlethal concentrations (25, 100, 250, and 500 microM) for a varying number of times (one, two, or four) prior to a bout of unconfined axial compression (5 MPa, 1 Hz, 1800 cycles). When compared with untreated controls, tBHP had significant positive effects on post-compression viability, lactate production, and proteoglycan losses. Overall, the most effective regime was 100 microM tBHP applied four times. RNA analysis revealed significant effects of 100 microM tBHP on gene expression. Catalase, hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha), and glyceraldehyde 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) were significantly increased relative to untreated controls in explants treated four times with 100 microM tBHP, a regime that also resulted in a significant decrease in matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) expression. These findings demonstrate that repeated exposure of cartilage to sublethal concentrations of peroxide can moderate the acute effects of mechanical stress, a conclusion supported by evidence of peroxide-induced changes in gene expression that could render chondrocytes more resistant to oxidative damage.
(c) 2010 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.