Objective: To investigate changes in the composition of articular cartilage matrix during the development of experimental osteoarthritis (OA), collagen type II, collagen type I, and the noncollagenous proteins fibronectin and tenascin were studied in normal and osteoarthritic cartilage of rabbits.
Methods: OA of the knee joint was induced by a medial meniscectomy and section of the medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament. Frozen sections of rabbit normal and OA cartilage were stained with monoclonal antibodies against collagen type II, collagen type I, fibronectin, and tenascin.
Results: Collagen II manifested a decreased interterritorial staining and seemed to increase territorially in the deeper zones of the OA cartilage. Collagen I was found in normal cartilage as a thin layer covering the surface and also in OA fibrillated cartilage. Fibronectin was present in normal and OA cartilage. Whereas a layer covered the normal cartilage, a thicker layer was observed in OA cartilage. In addition, changes in fibronectin distribution from the pericellular to the interterritorial matrix were observed. Tenascin was also found in normal cartilage matrix, particularly in the territorial and interterritorial matrix of the deeper zones. It showed an increased staining intensity in fibrillated cartilage, in the pericellular matrix of the upper chondrocytes, and on the surface lining in OA cartilage.
Conclusion: Collagen type II deposition seems to increase in the deeper cartilage zones during the osteoarthritic process, as a sign of tissue repair response. Collagen type I, fibronectin, and tenascin show enhanced deposition in the upper, fibrillated osteoarthritic cartilage, suggesting a common mediator controlled pathway.