Enhancement of SPARC (osteonectin) synthesis in arthritic cartilage. Increased levels in synovial fluids from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and regulation by growth factors and cytokines in chondrocyte cultures

Arthritis Rheum. 1996 Apr;39(4):539-51. doi: 10.1002/art.1780390402.


Objective: To investigate the roles of SPARC (secreted protein, acidic and rich in cysteine) (osteonectin) in arthritis, using cartilage and synovium specimens and synovial fluids (SF) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA), and to examine the effects of cytokines, growth factors, and hormones on SPARC synthesis by chondrocytes in culture.

Methods: SPARC in cartilage and synovium was immunostained with monoclonal antibodies. SPARC synthesis by cultured chondrocytes was measured by Northern blot analysis, immunoblotting, and sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results: SPARC was identified in numerous chondrocytes in the superficial and middle zones and in regenerating chondrocytes of RA and OA joints, whereas such staining was absent in these zones of normal cartilage, except for weak signals from a few chondrocytes in the deep zone. In addition, SPARC synthesis was enhanced in synovial cells of RA and OA joints. The average SPARC level in SF was 10-fold higher in the RA than in the OA population. In rabbit articular chondrocyte cultures, administration of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF beta 1) and bone morphogenetic protein 2 increased SPARC levels at 24-48 hours, whereas interleukin-lbeta (IL-1 beta), IL-1 alpha, tumor necrosis factor alpha, lipopolysaccharide, phorbol myristate acetate, basic fibroblast growth factor, and dexamethasone decreased SPARC levels at 24-72 hours. TGF beta increased SPARC messenger RNA (mRNA) levels at 24 hours, whereas IL-1 beta caused a marked decrease in SPARC mRNA levels at 24 hours. Furthermore, IL-1 decreased the glycosylation of SPARC.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that various growth factors and cytokines, including TGF beta 1 and IL-1 beta, regulate the production of SPARC by chondrocytes at pre- and posttranslational levels, and that SPARC synthesis is markedly enhanced in arthritic joints.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Cartilage, Articular / chemistry
  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Growth Substances / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism*
  • Osteonectin / analysis
  • Osteonectin / biosynthesis*
  • Rabbits
  • Synovial Fluid / chemistry
  • Synovial Membrane / chemistry
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Growth Substances
  • Osteonectin