Lubricin encoded by the proteoglycan 4 (Prg4) gene is produced from superficial zone (SFZ) cells of articular cartilage and synoviocytes, which is indispensable for lubrication of joint surfaces. Loss-of-function of human and mouse Prg4 results in early-onset arthropathy accompanied by lost SFZ cells and hyperplastic synovium. Here, we focused on increases in the thickness of articular cartilage in Prg4-knockout joints and analyzed the underlying mechanisms. In the late stage of articular cartilage development, the articular cartilage was thickened at 2 to 4 weeks and the SFZ disappeared at 8 weeks in Prg4-knockout mice. Similar changes were observed in cultured Prg4-knockout femoral heads. Cell tracking showed that Prg4-knockout SFZ cells at 1 week of age expanded to deep layers after 1 week. In in vitro experiments, overexpression of Prg4 lacking a mucin-like domain suppressed differentiation of ATDC5 cells markedly, whereas pellets of Prg4-knockout SFZ cells showed enhanced differentiation. RNA sequencing identified matrix metalloproteinase 9 (Mmp9) as the top upregulated gene by Prg4 knockout. Mmp9 expressed in the SFZ was further induced in Prg4-knockout mice. The increased expression of Mmp9 by Prg4 knockout was canceled by IκB kinase (IKK) inhibitor treatment. Phosphorylation of Smad2 was also enhanced in Prg4-knockout cell pellets, which was canceled by the IKK inhibitor. Expression of Mmp9 and phosphorylated Smad2 during articular cartilage development was enhanced in Prg4-knockout joints. Lubricin contributes to homeostasis of articular cartilage by suppressing differentiation of SFZ cells, and the nuclear factor-kappa B-Mmp9-TGF-β pathway is probably responsible for the downstream action of lubricin.
- ARTICULAR CARTILAGE
- GENETIC ANIMAL MODELS
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine