Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease characterized by articular cartilage and/or chondrocyte destruction, and although it has long been considered as a primary disease, the importance of meniscus endothelial cell modulation in the subchondral microenvironment has recently drawn attention. Previous studies have shown that apelin could potentially inhibit cellular apoptosis; however, it remains unclear whether apelin could play a protective role in protecting the endothelium in the OA meniscus. In this study, with the advantages of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data, in combination with flow cytometry, we identified two endothelial subclusters in the meniscus, featured by high expression of Homeobox A13 (HOXA13) and Ras Protein-Specific Guanine Nucleotide Releasing Factor 2 (RASGRF2), respectively. Compared with control patients, both subclusters decreased in absolute cell numbers and exhibited downregulated APJ endogenous ligand (APLN, coding for apelin) and upregulated apelin receptor (APLNR, coding apelin receptor). Furthermore, we confirmed that in OA, decreased endothelial cell numbers, including both subclusters, were related to intrinsic apoptosis factors: one more relevant to caspase 3 (CASP3) and the other to BH3-Interacting Domain Death agonist (BID). In vitro culturing of meniscal endothelial cells purified from patients proved that apelin could significantly inhibit apoptosis by downregulating these two factors in endothelial cell subclusters, suggesting that apelin could potentially serve as a therapeutic target for patients with OA.
Copyright © 2022 Dinggui Lu et al.