The objective was to investigate the levels of TWIST1 in normal and OA cartilage and examine its role in regulating gene expression in chondrocytes. Human cartilage tissues and chondrocytes were obtained at autopsy from normal knee joints and from OA-affected joints at the time of total knee arthroplasty. TWIST1 expression was increased in human OA knee cartilage compared to normal knee cartilage. TWIST1 induced matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP3) expression without direct binding to MMP3 promoter and increased the 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) level at the MMP3 promoter. The effect of TWIST1 on expression of TET family (TET1, 2 and 3) was measured in stable TWIST1 transfected TC28 cells, and TET1 expression was up-regulated. TWIST1 dependent upregulation of Mmp3 expression was suppressed in Tet triple KO fibroblast derived from mouse ES cells. Increased TWIST1 expression is a feature of OA-affected cartilage. We identified a novel mechanism of catabolic reaction where TWIST1 up-regulates MMP3 expression by enriching 5hmC levels at the MMP3 promoter via TET1 induction. These findings implicate TWIST1 as an important factor regulating OA related gene expression. Clarifying epigenetic mechanisms of 5hmC induced by TWIST1 is a critical molecule to understanding OA pathogenesis.
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