The adipokine adipsin is an emerging mediator of human osteoarthritis (OA) progression. Here, we investigated its in vivo role in the development of spontaneous OA in aging mice. We compared articular knee joint morphology, histology in knee cartilage, synovial membrane, subchondral bone, meniscus, and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL); and chondrogenesis in the ACL from adipsin-deficient (Df-/-) and wild-type (Df+/+) 20-week- and 20-month-old mice. Serum levels of a panel of adipokines, inflammatory factors, and metalloproteases known to be implicated in OA were investigated. Data first revealed that the early manifestation of OA appeared in the ACL of 20-week-old mice, progressing to severe alterations in the 20 month-old wild-type mice. Further results demonstrated that adipsin-deficiency protected the articular tissues from spontaneous OA progression and triggered significantly higher serum levels of the adipokines adiponectin and FGF-21 while lowering levels of the inflammatory factor interleukin 6 (IL-6) in both young and old mice. This work further underlines the clinical relevance of adipsin as a novel therapeutic approach of human OA. Moreover, this study shows the potential beneficial effect of the adipokine FGF-21 against OA, and provides support for this factor to be a new biomarker and/or target of primary OA therapeutic avenues.
Keywords: FGF-21; adipsin; aging; osteoarthritis.