Background: Tenascin-C (TN-C) is an extracellular matrix glycoprotein that is involved in tissue injury and repair processes. We analyzed TN-C expression in normal and osteoarthritic (OA) human cartilage, and evaluated its capacity to induce inflammatory and catabolic mediators in chondrocytes in vitro. The effect of TN-C on proteoglycan loss from articular cartilage in culture was also assessed.
Methods: TN-C in culture media, cartilage extracts, and synovial fluid of human and animal joints was quantified using a sandwich ELISA and/or analyzed by Western immunoblotting. mRNA expression of TN-C and aggrecanases were analyzed by Taqman assays. Human and bovine primary chondrocytes and/or explant culture systems were utilized to study TN-C induced inflammatory or catabolic mediators and proteoglycan loss. Total proteoglycan and aggrecanase -generated ARG-aggrecan fragments were quantified in human and rat synovial fluids by ELISA.
Results: TN-C protein and mRNA expression were significantly upregulated in OA cartilage with a concomitant elevation of TN-C levels in the synovial fluid of OA patients. IL-1 enhanced TN-C expression in articular cartilage. Addition of TN-C induced IL-6, PGE2, and nitrate release and upregulated ADAMTS4 mRNA in cultured primary human and bovine chondrocytes. TN-C treatment resulted in an increased loss of proteoglycan from cartilage explants in culture. A correlation was observed between TN-C and aggrecanase generated ARG-aggrecan fragment levels in the synovial fluid of human OA joints and in the lavage of rat joints that underwent surgical induction of OA.
Conclusions: TN-C expression in the knee cartilage and TN-C levels measured in the synovial fluid are significantly enhanced in OA patients. Our findings suggest that the elevated levels of TN-C could induce inflammatory mediators and promote matrix degradation in OA joints.