Interplay between genetics and epigenetics in osteoarthritis

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2020 May;16(5):268-281. doi: 10.1038/s41584-020-0407-3. Epub 2020 Apr 9.


Research into the molecular genetics of osteoarthritis (OA) has been substantially bolstered in the past few years by the implementation of powerful genome-wide scans that have revealed a large number of novel risk loci associated with the disease. This refreshing wave of discovery has occurred concurrently with epigenetic studies of joint tissues that have examined DNA methylation, histone modifications and regulatory RNAs. These epigenetic analyses have involved investigations of joint development, homeostasis and disease and have used both human samples and animal models. What has become apparent from a comparison of these two complementary approaches is that many OA genetic risk signals interact with, map to or correlate with epigenetic mediators. This discovery implies that epigenetic mechanisms, and their effect on gene expression, are a major conduit through which OA genetic risk polymorphisms exert their functional effects. This observation is particularly exciting as it provides mechanistic insight into OA susceptibility. Furthermore, this knowledge reveals avenues for attenuating the negative effect of risk-conferring alleles by exposing the epigenome as an exploitable target for therapeutic intervention in OA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenomics / methods*
  • Gene Expression
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Histone Code / genetics
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Joints / growth & development
  • Joints / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Osteoarthritis / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Regulatory Sequences, Ribonucleic Acid / genetics
  • Risk Factors


  • Regulatory Sequences, Ribonucleic Acid