Introduction: Sclerostin is a Wnt inhibitor produced by osteocytes that regulates bone formation. Because bone tissue contributes to the development of osteoarthritis (OA), we investigated the role of sclerostin in bone and cartilage in a joint instability model in mice.
Methods: Ten-week-old SOST-knockout (SOST-KO) and wild-type (WT) mice underwent destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM). We measured bone volume at the medial femoral condyle and osteophyte volume and determined the OA score and expression of matrix proteins. Primary murine chondrocytes were cultured with Wnt3a and sclerostin to assess the expression of matrix proteins, proteoglycan release and glycosaminoglycan accumulation.
Results: Sclerostin was expressed in calcified cartilage of WT mice with OA. In SOST-KO mice, cartilage was preserved despite high bone volume. However, SOST-KO mice with DMM had a high OA score, with increased expression of aggrecanases and type X collagen. Moreover, SOST-KO mice with OA showed disrupted anabolic-catabolic balance and cartilage damage. In primary chondrocytes, sclerostin addition abolished Wnt3a-increased expression of a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs, matrix metalloproteinases and type X collagen by inhibiting the canonical Wnt pathway. Moreover, sclerostin inhibited Wnt-phosphorylated c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and rescued the expression of anabolic genes. Furthermore, sclerostin treatment inhibited both Wnt canonical and non-canonical JNK pathways in chondrocytes, thus preserving metabolism.
Conclusion: Sclerostin may play an important role in maintaining cartilage integrity in OA.