Transcriptome analysis of injured human meniscus reveals a distinct phenotype of meniscus degeneration with aging

Arthritis Rheum. 2013 Aug;65(8):2090-101. doi: 10.1002/art.37984.


Objective: Meniscus tears are associated with a heightened risk of osteoarthritis. This study aimed to advance our understanding of the metabolic state of injured human meniscus at the time of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy through transcriptome-wide analysis of gene expression in relation to the patient's age and degree of cartilage chondrosis.

Methods: The degree of chondrosis of knee cartilage was recorded at the time of meniscectomy in symptomatic patients without radiographic osteoarthritis. RNA preparations from resected menisci (n = 12) were subjected to transcriptome-wide microarray and QuantiGene Plex analyses. Variations in the relative changes in gene expression with age and chondrosis were analyzed, and integrated biologic processes were investigated computationally.

Results: We identified a set of genes in torn menisci that were differentially expressed with age and chondrosis. There were 866 genes that were differentially regulated (≥1.5-fold difference and P < 0.05) with age and 49 with chondrosis. In older patients, genes associated with cartilage and skeletal development and extracellular matrix synthesis were repressed, while those involved in immune response, inflammation, cell cycle, and cellular proliferation were stimulated. With chondrosis, genes representing cell catabolism (cAMP catabolic process) and tissue and endothelial cell development were repressed, and those involved in T cell differentiation and apoptosis were elevated.

Conclusion: Differences in age-related gene expression suggest that in older adults, meniscal cells might dedifferentiate and initiate a proliferative phenotype. Conversely, meniscal cells in younger patients appear to respond to injury, but they maintain the differentiated phenotype. Definitive molecular signatures identified in damaged meniscus could be segregated largely with age and, to a lesser extent, with chondrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging*
  • Cartilage Diseases / genetics
  • Cartilage Diseases / metabolism
  • Cartilage Diseases / pathology
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Cell Dedifferentiation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / genetics*
  • Knee Injuries / metabolism
  • Knee Injuries / pathology
  • Lacerations
  • Menisci, Tibial / metabolism
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Array Analysis / methods*
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries*