Mechanical stress determines the configuration of TGFβ activation in articular cartilage

Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 17;12(1):1706. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21948-0.


Our incomplete understanding of osteoarthritis (OA) pathogenesis has significantly hindered the development of disease-modifying therapy. The functional relationship between subchondral bone (SB) and articular cartilage (AC) is unclear. Here, we found that the changes of SB architecture altered the distribution of mechanical stress on AC. Importantly, the latter is well aligned with the pattern of transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) activity in AC, which is essential in the regulation of AC homeostasis. Specifically, TGFβ activity is concentrated in the areas of AC with high mechanical stress. A high level of TGFβ disrupts the cartilage homeostasis and impairs the metabolic activity of chondrocytes. Mechanical stress stimulates talin-centered cytoskeletal reorganization and the consequent increase of cell contractile forces and cell stiffness of chondrocytes, which triggers αV integrin-mediated TGFβ activation. Knockout of αV integrin in chondrocytes reversed the alteration of TGFβ activation and subsequent metabolic abnormalities in AC and attenuated cartilage degeneration in an OA mouse model. Thus, SB structure determines the patterns of mechanical stress and the configuration of TGFβ activation in AC, which subsequently regulates chondrocyte metabolism and AC homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism*
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Cell Line
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Integrin alphaV / genetics
  • Integrin alphaV / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Talin / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Integrin alphaV
  • Talin
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta