Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative disease that leads to joint failure, pain, and disability. Gene regulation is implicated as a driver of the imbalance between the expression of catabolic and anabolic factors that eventually leads to the degeneration of osteoarthritic cartilage. In our model, knee-joint OA was induced in male Wistar rats by intra-articular sodium monoiodoacetate (MIA) injections. Whole-genome microarrays were used to analyse the alterations in gene expression during the time-course of OA development (at 2, 14, and 28 days post-injection) in rat knee joints. The identified co-expressed groups of genes were analysed for enriched regulatory mechanisms, functional classes, and cell-type-specific expression. This analysis revealed 272 regulated transcripts (ANOVA FDR < 0.1% and fold > 2). Functionally, the five major gene expression patterns (A-E) were connected to PPAR signalling and adipogenesis (in cluster A), WNT signalling (in cluster B), endochondral ossification (in cluster C), matrix metalloproteinases and the ACE/RAGE pathway (in cluster D), and the Toll-like receptor, and IL-1 signalling pathways (in cluster E). Moreover, the dynamic profiles of these transcriptional changes were assigned to cellular compartments of the knee joint. Classifying the molecular processes associated with the development of cartilage degeneration provides novel insight into the OA disease process. Our study identified groups of co-regulated genes that share functional relationships and that may play an important role in the early and intermediate stages of OA.
Keywords: Biomarkers; Gene expression; Molecular profiles; Osteoarthritis; Time-course.