Growth hormone (GH) is a key mediator of skeletal growth. In humans, excess GH secretion due to pituitary adenoma, seen in patients with acromegaly, results in severe arthropathies. This study investigated the effects of long-term excess GH on the knee joint tissues. One year-old wild-type (WT) and bovine GH (bGH) transgenic mice were used as a model for excess GH. bGH mice showed increased sensitivity to mechanical and thermal stimuli, compared with WT mice. Micro-computed tomography analyses of the distal femur subchondral bone revealed significant reductions in trabecular thickness and significantly reduced bone mineral density of the tibial subchondral bone-plate associated with increased osteoclast activity in both male and female bGH compared with WT mice. bGH mice showed severe loss of matrix from the articular cartilage, osteophytosis, synovitis, and ectopic chondrogenesis. Articular cartilage loss in the bGH mice was associated with elevated markers of inflammation and chondrocyte hypertrophy. Finally, hyperplasia of synovial cells was associated with increased expression of Ki-67 and diminished p53 levels in the synovium of bGH mice. Unlike the low-grade inflammation seen in primary osteoarthritis, arthropathy caused by excess GH affects all joint tissues and triggers severe inflammatory response. Data from this study suggest that treatment of acromegalic arthropathy should involve inhibition of ectopic chondrogenesis and chondrocyte hypertrophy.
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