Objective: The vascular invasion of cartilage is an essential process in the endochondral ossification of long bones. In contrast, vascularization of articular cartilage constitutes a pathological mechanism in the development of osteoarthritis. Polymorphisms of Col9a1 have been described as risk factors for hip osteoarthritis (OA) and the loss of collagen IX is known to lead to premature OA of the hip joint in mice but the underlying mechanism is so far unknown.
Design: To understand the contribution of collagen IX to OA development in the hip joint, we analyzed the early development of murine Col9a1-/- femoral heads between newborn stage and 16 weeks of age.
Results: We found significantly accelerated ossification of the femoral heads in the absence of collagen IX as well as premature vascular and osteoclast invasion, even though hypertrophic differentiation was delayed. The loss of collagen IX led to anatomically altered femoral heads lacking the epiphyseal tubercle. Interestingly, this region was found to contain highest levels of the antiangiogenic protein thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1). Hence, TSP-1 levels were strongly reduced in the Col9a1-/- femoral heads. In addition, antiangiogenic matrilin-1 was found to be decreased, while proangiogenic active MMP-9 levels were increased in the collagen IX deficient mice compared to wildtype controls.
Conclusion: We conclude that collagen IX protects against premature vascularization and cartilage to bone transition in femoral heads by increasing the levels of antiangiogenic TSP-1 and matrilin-1 and decreasing the levels of proangiogenic active MMP-9.
Keywords: Angiogenesis; Collagen IX; Endochondral ossification; Femoral head; Thombospondin-1.
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