Recent Publications

Peptides. 2022 May 20;154:170815. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2022.170815.


Involvement of complement peptides C3a and C5a in osteoarthritis pathology
Nicole Schäfer, Susanne Grässel

Abstract: Osteoarthritis (OA) affects more than 500 million people worldwide and is among the five diseases in Germany causing the highest suffering of the patients and cost for the society. The quality of life of OA patients is severely compromised, and adequate therapy is lacking owing to a knowledge gap that acts as a major barrier to finding safe and effective solutions. Chronic, low-grade inflammation plays a central role in OA pathogenesis and is associated with both OA pain and disease progression. Innate immune pathways, such as the complement- and pattern-recognition receptor pathways, are pivotal to the inflammation in OA and key components of the innate immune system implicated in OA include DAMP-TLR signaling, the complement system, carboxypeptidase B (CPB), and mononuclear cells. Anaphylatoxins C3a and C5a are small polypeptides (77 and 74 amino acids, respectively) which are released by proteolytic cleavage of the complement components C3 and C5. The alternative complement pathway seems to play a crucial role in OA pathogenesis as these complement components, mostly C3 and its activation peptide C3a, were detected at high levels in osteoarthritic cartilage, synovial membrane, and cultured chondrocytes. Targeting the complement system by using anti-complement drugs as a therapeutic option bears the risk of major side effects such as increasing the risk of infection, interfering with cell regeneration and metabolism, and suppressing the clearance of immune complexes. Despite those adverse effects, several synthetic complement peptide antagonists show promising effects in ameliorating inflammatory cell responses also in joint tissues.

Biomedicines. 2022 May 5;10(5):1071. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10051071.


The Corpus Adiposum Infrapatellare (Hoffa's Fat Pad) - The Role of the Infrapatellar Fat Pad in Osteoarthritis Pathogenesis
Sebastian Braun , Frank Zaucke , Marco Brenneis , Anna E Rapp , Patrizia Pollinger , Rebecca Sohn , Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl , Andrea Meurer

Abstract: In recent years, the infrapatellar fat pad (IFP) has gained increasing research interest. The contribution of the IFP to the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA) through extensive interactions with the synovium, articular cartilage, and subchondral bone is being considered. As part of the initiation process of OA, IFP secretes abundant pro-inflammatory mediators among many other factors. Today, the IFP is (partially) resected in most total knee arthroplasties (TKA) allowing better visualization during surgical procedures. Currently, there is no clear guideline providing evidence in favor of or against IFP resection. With increasing numbers of TKAs, there is a focus on preventing adverse postoperative outcomes. Therefore, anatomic features, role in the development of knee OA, and consequences of resecting versus preserving the IFP during TKA are reviewed in the following article.

Front Immunol. 2022 Jan 13;12:801505. eCollection 2021. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.801505.


β2-Adrenoceptor Deficiency Results in Increased Calcified Cartilage Thickness and Subchondral Bone Remodeling in Murine Experimental Osteoarthritis
Gundula Rösch, Dominique Muschter, Shahed Taheri, Karima El Bagdadi, Christoph Dorn, Andrea Meurer, Frank Zaucke, Arndt F Schilling, Susanne Grässel, Rainer H Straub, Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl

Purpose: Recent studies demonstrated a contribution of adrenoceptors (ARs) to osteoarthritis (OA) pathogenesis. Several AR subtypes are expressed in joint tissues and the β2-AR subtype seems to play a major role during OA progression. However, the importance of β2-AR has not yet been investigated in knee OA. Therefore, we examined the development of knee OA in β2-AR-deficient (Adrb2-/- ) mice after surgical OA induction.
Methods: OA was induced by destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) in male wildtype (WT) and Adrb2-/- mice. Cartilage degeneration and synovial inflammation were evaluated by histological scoring. Subchondral bone remodeling was analyzed using micro-CT. Osteoblast (alkaline phosphatase - ALP) and osteoclast (cathepsin K - CatK) activity were analyzed by immunostainings. To evaluate β2-AR deficiency-associated effects, body weight, sympathetic tone (splenic norepinephrine (NE) via HPLC) and serum leptin levels (ELISA) were determined. Expression of the second major AR, the α2-AR, was analyzed in joint tissues by immunostaining.
Results: WT and Adrb2-/- DMM mice developed comparable changes in cartilage degeneration and synovial inflammation. Adrb2-/- DMM mice displayed elevated calcified cartilage and subchondral bone plate thickness as well as increased epiphyseal BV/TV compared to WTs, while there were no significant differences in Sham animals. In the subchondral bone of Adrb2-/- mice, osteoblasts activity increased and osteoclast activity deceased. Adrb2-/- mice had significantly higher body weight and fat mass compared to WT mice. Serum leptin levels increased in Adrb2-/- DMM compared to WT DMM without any difference between the respective Shams. There was no difference in the development of meniscal ossicles and osteophytes or in the subarticular trabecular microstructure between Adrb2-/- and WT DMM as well as Adrb2-/- and WT Sham mice. Number of α2-AR-positive cells was lower in Adrb2-/- than in WT mice in all analyzed tissues and decreased in both Adrb2-/- and WT over time.
Conclusion: We propose that the increased bone mass in Adrb2-/- DMM mice was not only due to β2-AR deficiency but to a synergistic effect of OA and elevated leptin concentrations. Taken together, β2-AR plays a major role in OA-related subchondral bone remodeling and is thus an attractive target for the exploration of novel therapeutic avenues.

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2022 Jan 8;S1063-4584(22)00002-4. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2021.12.009.

Posttraumatic osteoarthritis as potential modulator of autonomic nervous system function
Z Jenei-Lanzl, G Pongratz

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2021 Dec 2;S1063-4584(21)00979-1. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2021.11.016.

Sympathectomy aggravates subchondral bone changes during osteoarthritis progression in mice without affecting cartilage degeneration or synovial inflammation
Gundula Rösch, Karima El Bagdadi, Dominique Muschter, Shahed Taheri, Christoph Dorn, Andrea Meurer, Rainer H Straub, Frank Zaucke, Arndt F Schilling, Susanne Grässel, Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl


Objective: Osteoarthritis (OA) pathogenesis involves the interaction of articular cartilage with surrounding tissues, which are innervated by tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) sympathetic nerve fibers suggesting a role of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) during OA progression. We analyzed the effects of sympathectomy (Syx) in a murine OA model.
Methods: Peripheral Syx was generated by 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) injections in male C57BL/6 mice. OA was induced in wild-type (WT) and Syx mice by destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM). TH+ fibers and splenic NE were analyzed to evaluate Syx efficiency. OA progression was examined by OARSI and synovitis scores and micro-CT. Expression of TH, α2A- and β2-adrenergic receptors (AR), and activity of osteoblasts (ALP) and osteoclasts (TRAP) was investigated by stainings.
Results: Syx resulted in synovial TH+ fiber elimination and splenic NE decrease. Cartilage degradation and synovitis after DMM were comparably progressive in both WT and Syx mice. Calcified cartilage (CC) and subchondral bone plate (SCBP) thickness and bone volume fraction (BV/TV) increased in Syx mice due to increased ALP and decreased TRAP activities compared to WT 8 weeks after DMMWT and Syx mice developed osteophytes and meniscal ossicles without any differences between the groups. AR numbers decreased in cartilage but increased in synovium and osteophyte regions after DMM in both WT and Syx mice.
Conclusion: Peripheral dampening of SNS activity aggravated OA-specific cartilage calcification and subchondral bone thickening but did not influence cartilage degradation and synovitis. Therefore, SNS might be an attractive target for the development of novel therapeutic strategies for pathologies of the subchondral bone.

Calcif Tissue Int. 2021 Nov;109(5):510-524. Epub 2021 May 22. doi: 10.1007/s00223-021-00864-x.

Investigating the Microchannel Architectures Inside the Subchondral Bone in Relation to Estimated Hip Reaction Forces on the Human Femoral Head
Shahed Taheri, Takashi Yoshida, Kai O Böker, Robert H Foerster, Lina Jochim, Anna Lena Flux, Birgit Grosskopf, Wolfgang Lehmann, Arndt Friedrich Schilling

Abstract: The interplay between articular cartilage (AC) and subchondral bone (SB) plays a pivotal role in cartilage homeostasis and functionality. As direct connective pathways between the two are poorly understood, we examined the location-dependent characteristics of the 3D microchannel network within the SB that connects the basal cartilage layer to the bone marrow (i.e. cartilage-bone marrow microchannel connectors; CMMC). 43 measuring points were defined on five human cadaveric femoral heads with no signs of osteoarthritis (OA) (age ≤ 60), and cartilage-bone cylinders with diameters of 2.00 mm were extracted for high-resolution scanning (n = 215). The micro-CT data were categorized into three groups (load-bearing region: LBR, n = 60; non-load-bearing region: NLBR, n = 60; and the peripheral rim: PR, n = 95) based on a gait analysis estimation of the joint reaction force (young, healthy cohort with no signs of OA). At the AC-SB interface, the number of CMMC in the LBR was 1.8 times and 2.2 times higher compared to the NLBR, and the PR, respectively. On the other hand, the median Feret size of the CMMC were smallest in the LBR (55.2 µm) and increased in the NLBR (73.5 µm; p = 0.043) and the PR (89.1 µm; p = 0.043). AC thickness was positively associated with SB thickness (Pearson's r = 0.48; p < 1e-13), CMMC number. (r = 0.46; p < 1e-11), and circularity index (r = 0.61; p < 1e-38). In conclusion, our data suggest that regional differences in the microchannel architecture of SB might reflect regional differences in loading.

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Sep 13;22(18):9887. doi: 10.3390/ijms22189887.

The Interaction between microRNAs and the Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling Pathway in Osteoarthritis
Xiaobin Shang, Kai Oliver Böker, Shahed Taheri, Thelonius Hawellek, Wolfgang Lehmann, Arndt F Schilling

Abstract: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic disease affecting the whole joint, which still lacks a disease-modifying treatment. This suggests an incomplete understanding of underlying molecular mechanisms. The Wnt/β-catenin pathway is involved in different pathophysiological processes of OA. Interestingly, both excessive stimulation and suppression of this pathway can contribute to the pathogenesis of OA. microRNAs have been shown to regulate different cellular processes in different diseases, including the metabolic activity of chondrocytes and osteocytes. To bridge these findings, here we attempt to give a conclusive overview of microRNA regulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in bone and cartilage, which may provide insights to advance the development of miRNA-based therapeutics for OA treatment.

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Aug 19;22(16):8956. doi: 10.3390/ijms22168956.


Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Endogenously Released Adenosine in Synovial Cells of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
Rebecca Sohn, Marius Junker, Andrea Meurer, Frank Zaucke, Rainer H Straub, Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl


Abstract: Exogenous adenosine and its metabolite inosine exert anti-inflammatory effects in synoviocytes of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We analyzed whether these cells are able to synthesize adenosine/inosine and which adenosine receptors (ARs) contribute to anti-inflammatory effects. The functionality of synthesizing enzymes and ARs was tested using agonists/antagonists. Both OA and RA cells expressed CD39 (converts ATP to AMP), CD73 (converts AMP to adenosine), ADA (converts adenosine to inosine), ENT1/2 (adenosine transporters), all AR subtypes (A1, A2A, A2B and A3) and synthesized predominantly adenosine. The CD73 inhibitor AMPCP significantly increased IL-6 and decreased IL-10 in both cell types, while TNF only increased in RA cells. The ADA inhibitor DAA significantly reduced IL-6 and induced IL-10 in both OA and RA cells. The A2AAR agonist CGS 21680 significantly inhibited IL-6 and induced TNF and IL-10 only in RA, while the A2BAR agonist BAY 60-6583 had the same effect in both OA and RA. Taken together, OA and RA synoviocytes express the complete enzymatic machinery to synthesize adenosine/inosine; however, mainly adenosine is responsible for the anti- (IL-6 and IL-10) or pro-inflammatory (TNF) effects mediated by A2A- and A2BAR. Stimulating CD39/CD73 with simultaneous ADA blockage in addition to TNF inhibition might represent a promising therapeutic strategy.

Int J Mol Sci 2021 Apr 2;22(7):3726. doi: 10.3390/ijms22073726.

Heparan Sulfate Deficiency in Cartilage: Enhanced BMP-Sensitivity, Proteoglycan Production and an Anti-Apoptotic Expression Signature after Loading
Matthias Gerstner, Ann-Christine Severmann, Safak Chasan, Andrea Vortkamp, Wiltrud Richter

Abstract: Osteoarthritis (OA) represents one major cause of disability worldwide still evading efficient pharmacological or cellular therapies. Severe degeneration of extracellular cartilage matrix precedes the loss of mobility and disabling pain perception in affected joints. Recent studies showed that a reduced heparan sulfate (HS) content protects cartilage from degradation in OA-animal models of joint destabilization but the underlying mechanisms remained unclear. We aimed to clarify whether low HS-content alters the mechano-response of chondrocytes and to uncover pathways relevant for HS-related chondro-protection in response to loading. Tissue-engineered cartilage with HS-deficiency was generated from rib chondrocytes of mice carrying a hypomorphic allele of Exostosin 1 (Ext1), one of the main HS-synthesizing enzymes, and wildtype (WT) littermate controls. Engineered cartilage matured for 2 weeks was exposed to cyclic unconfined compression in a bioreactor. The molecular loading response was determined by transcriptome profiling, bioinformatic data processing, and qPCR. HS-deficient chondrocytes expressed 3-6% of WT Ext1-mRNA levels. Both groups similarly raised Sox9, Col2a1 and Acan levels during maturation. However, HS-deficient chondrocytes synthesized and deposited 50% more GAG/DNA. TGFβ and FGF2-sensitivity of Ext1gt/gt chondrocytes was similar to WT cells but their response to BMP-stimulation was enhanced. Loading induced similar activation of mechano-sensitive ERK and P38-signaling in WT and HS-reduced chondrocytes. Transcriptome analysis reflected regulation of cell migration as major load-induced biological process with similar stimulation of common (Fosl1, Itgα5, Timp1, and Ngf) as well as novel mechano-regulated genes (Inhba and Dhrs9). Remarkably, only Ext1-hypomorphic cartilage responded to loading by an expression signature of negative regulation of apoptosis with pro-apoptotic Bnip3 being selectively down-regulated. HS-deficiency enhanced BMP-sensitivity, GAG-production and fostered an anti-apoptotic expression signature after loading, all of which may protect cartilage from load-induced erosion.

Cell Signal 2021 Jun;82:109948. Epub 2021 Feb 8. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2021.109948.


Adrenergic signalling in osteoarthritis

Rebecca Sohn, Gundula Rösch, Marius Junker, Andrea Meurer, Frank Zaucke, Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl


Abstract: Adrenoceptors (ARs) mediate the effects of the sympathetic neurotransmitters norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (E) in the human body and play a central role in physiologic and pathologic processes. Therefore, ARs have long been recognized as targets for therapeutic agents, especially in the field of cardiovascular medicine. During the past decades, the contribution of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and particularly of its major peripheral catecholamine NE to the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA) attracted growing interest. OA is the most common degenerative joint disorder worldwide and a disease of the whole joint. It is characterized by progressive degradation of articular cartilage, synovial inflammation, osteophyte formation, and subchondral bone sclerosis mostly resulting in chronic pain. The subchondral bone marrow, the periosteum, the synovium, the vascular meniscus and numerous tendons and ligaments are innervated by tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) sympathetic nerve fibers that release NE into the synovial fluid and cells of all abovementioned joint tissues express at least one out of nine AR subtypes. During the past decades, several in vitro studies explored the AR-mediated effects of NE on different cell types in the joint. So far, only a few studies used animal OA models to investigate the contribution of distinct AR subtypes to OA pathogenesis in vivo. This narrative review shortly summarizes the current background knowledge about ARs and their signalling pathways at first. In the second part, we focus on recent findings in the field of NE-induced AR-mediated signalling in different joint tissues during OA pathogenesis and at the end, we will delineate the potential of targeting the adrenergic signalling for OA prevention or treatment. We used the PubMed bibliographic database to search for keywords such as 'joint' or 'cartilage' or 'synovium' or 'bone' and 'osteoarthritis' and/or 'trauma' and 'sympathetic nerve fibers' and/or 'norepinephrine' and 'adrenergic receptors / adrenoceptors' as well as 'adrenergic therapy'.

Cells 2021 Feb 1;10(2):298. doi: 10.3390/cells10020298.


Mechanical Stress Induce PG-E2 in Murine Synovial Fibroblasts Originating from the Temporomandibular Joint

Ute Nazet, Laura Feulner, Dominique Muschter, Patrick Neubert, Valentin Schatz, Susanne Grässel, Jonathan Jantsch, Peter Proff, Agnes Schröder, Christian Kirschneck


Abstract: Genetic predisposition, traumatic events, or excessive mechanical exposure provoke arthritic changes in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). We analysed the impact of mechanical stress that might be involved in the development and progression of TMJ osteoarthritis (OA) on murine synovial fibroblasts (SFs) of temporomandibular origin. SFs were subjected to different protocols of mechanical stress, either to a high-frequency tensile strain for 4 h or to a tensile strain of varying magnitude for 48 h. The TMJ OA induction was evaluated based on the gene and protein secretion of inflammatory factors (Icam-1, Cxcl-1, Cxcl-2, Il-1ß, Il-1ra, Il-6, Ptgs-2, PG-E2), subchondral bone remodelling (Rankl, Opg), and extracellular matrix components (Col1a2, Has-1, collagen and hyaluronic acid deposition) using RT-qPCR, ELISA, and HPLC. A short high-frequency tensile strain had only minor effects on inflammatory factors and no effects on the subchondral bone remodelling induction or matrix constituent production. A prolonged tensile strain of moderate and advanced magnitude increased the expression of inflammatory factors. An advanced tensile strain enhanced the Ptgs-2 and PG-E2 expression, while the expression of further inflammatory factors were decreased. The tensile strain protocols had no effects on the RANKL/OPG expression, while the advanced tensile strain significantly reduced the deposition of matrix constituent contents of collagen and hyaluronic acid. The data indicates that the application of prolonged advanced mechanical stress on SFs promote PG-E2 protein secretion, while the deposition of extracellular matrix components is decreased.