Glucose enhances aggrecan expression in chondrocytes via the PKCα/p38-miR141-3p signaling pathway

J Cell Physiol. 2018 Sep;233(9):6878-6887. doi: 10.1002/jcp.26451. Epub 2018 Mar 25.


Aggrecan is a high molecular weight proteoglycan that plays a critical role in cartilage structure and the function of joints, providing intervertebral disc and cartilage with the ability to resist compressive loads. Aggrecan degradation in articular cartilage is a significant event in early-stage osteoarthritis (OA). Currently, no effective treatment exists for OA other than pain relief. Dextrose (D-glucose) prolotherapy has shown promising activity in the treatment of different musculoskeletal disorders, including OA. However, little is known about the molecular mechanism of the glucose effect in OA and on the regulation of chondrogenesis. We show for the first time that glucose upregulates aggrecan expression and subsequent chondrogenesis in ATDC5 cells. Moreover, we found that glucose-induced aggrecan expression is mediated through the protein kinase Cα (PKCα)- and p38-dependent pathway. As demonstrated by microRNA (miR) and luciferase analyses, the glucose-induced PKCα/p38 signaling axis is responsible for downregulating miR141-3p which targets to the 3'untranslated region of aggrecan. In summary, we show that glucose enhances chondrogenesis by upregulating aggrecan expression via the PKCα-p38-miR141-3p signaling pathway. This result provides new insights into the mechanism of glucose on chondrogenesis.

Keywords: aggrecan; glucose; microRNA; osteoarthritis; prolotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions / genetics
  • Aggrecans / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / physiology*
  • Chondrogenesis / genetics
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Glucose / genetics*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / genetics*
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Osteoarthritis / genetics
  • Protein Kinase C-alpha / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Aggrecans
  • MicroRNAs
  • Protein Kinase C-alpha
  • Glucose