Expression analysis of the osteoarthritis genetic susceptibility mapping to the matrix Gla protein gene MGP

Arthritis Res Ther. 2019 Jun 18;21(1):149. doi: 10.1186/s13075-019-1934-7.


Background: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common disease of older individuals that impacts detrimentally on the quality and the length of life. It is characterised by the painful loss of articular cartilage and is polygenic and multifactorial. Genome-wide association scans have highlighted over 90 osteoarthritis genetic signals, some of which reside within or close to highly plausible candidate genes. An example is an association to polymorphisms within and adjacent to the matrix Gla protein gene MGP. We set out to undertake a functional study of this gene.

Methods: Nucleic acid was extracted from cartilage, infrapatellar fat pad, synovium, trabecular bone, trapezium and peripheral whole blood from OA patients and also from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) subjected to chondrogenesis. Expression of MGP was measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR), RNA-sequencing and allelic expression imbalance (AEI) analysis. Matrix Gla protein was depleted in chondrocytes by knocking down MGP expression using RNA interference (RNAi) and the effect on a range of genes assessed by qPCR.

Results: MGP is expressed in joint tissues, blood and chondrocytes cultured from MSCs. There is a higher expression in diseased versus non-diseased cartilage. Polymorphisms that are associated with OA also correlate with the expression of MGP, with the OA risk-conferring allele showing significantly reduced expression in cartilage, fat pad and synovium but increased expression in blood. Depletion of Matrix Gla protein had a significant effect on the majority of genes tested, with an increased expression of catabolic genes that encode enzymes that degrade cartilage.

Conclusions: MGP expression is subject to cis-acting regulators that correlate with the OA association signal. These are active in a range of joint tissues but have effects which are particularly strong in cartilage. An opposite effect is observed in blood, highlighting the context-specific nature of the regulation of this gene's expression. Recapitulation of the genetic deficit in cartilage chondrocytes is pro-catabolic.

Keywords: Allelic expression; Genetic association signal; Knockdown; MGP; Osteoarthritis; RNA interference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1-Carboxyglutamic Acid
  • Alleles
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism*
  • Chondrocytes / pathology
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Matrix Gla Protein
  • Osteoarthritis / genetics*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • RNA / genetics*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • 1-Carboxyglutamic Acid
  • RNA