Background Proper functioning of the meniscus depends on the composition and organization of its fibrocartilaginous extracellular matrix. We previously demonstrated that the avascular inner meniscus has a more chondrocytic phenotype compared with the outer meniscus. Inhibition of the Rho family GTPase ROCK, the major regulator of the actin cytoskeleton, stimulates the chondrogenic transcription factor Sry-type HMG box (SOX) 9-dependent α1(II) collagen (COL2A1) expression in inner meniscus cells. However, the crosstalk between ROCK inhibition, SOX9, and other transcription modulators on COL2A1 upregulation remains unclear in meniscus cells. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of SOX9-related transcriptional complex on COL2A1 expression under the inhibition of ROCK in human meniscus cells. Methods Human inner and outer meniscus cells were prepared from macroscopically intact lateral menisci. Cells were cultured in the presence or absence of ROCK inhibitor (ROCKi, Y27632). Gene expression, collagen synthesis, and nuclear translocation of SOX9 and Smad2/3 were analyzed. Results Treatment of ROCKi increased the ratio of type I/II collagen double positive cells derived from the inner meniscus. In real-time PCR analyses, expression of SOX9 and COL2A1 genes was stimulated by ROCKi treatment in inner meniscus cells. ROCKi treatment also induced nuclear translocation of SOX9 and phosphorylated Smad2/3 in immunohistological analyses. Complex formation between SOX9 and Smad3 was increased by ROCKi treatment in inner meniscus cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses revealed that association between SOX9/Smad3 transcriptional complex with the COL2A1 enhancer region was increased by ROCKi treatment. Conclusions This study demonstrated that ROCK inhibition stimulated SOX9/Smad3-dependent COL2A1 expression through the immediate nuclear translocation of Smad3 in inner meniscus cells. Our results suggest that ROCK inhibition can stimulates type II collagen synthesis through the cooperative activation of Smad3 in inner meniscus cells. ROCKi treatment may be useful to promote the fibrochondrocytic healing of the injured inner meniscus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine