Publications in 2018

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 25;8(1):9645. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27927-8.

TNF inhibits catecholamine production from induced sympathetic neuron-like cells in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in vitro
Markus Herrmann, Sven Anders, Rainer H Straub, Zsuzsa Jenei-Lanzl

Abstract: Synovial adipose stem cells (sASC) can be differentiated into catecholamine-expressing sympathetic neuron-like cells to treat experimental arthritis. However, the pro-inflammatory tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is known to be toxic to catecholaminergic cells (see Parkinson disease), and this may prevent anti-inflammatory effects in inflamed tissue. We hypothesized that TNF exhibits inhibitory effects on human differentiated sympathetic tyrosine hydroxylase-positive (TH+) neuron-like cells. For the first time, iTH+ neuron-like sympathetic cells were generated from sACSs of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) synovial tissue. Compared to untreated controls in both OA and RA, TNF-treated iTH+ cells demonstrated a weaker staining of catecholaminergic markers in cell cultures of RA/OA patients, and the amount of produced noradrenaline was markedly lower. These effects were reversed by etanercept. Exposure of iTH+ cells to synovial fluid of RA patients showed similar inhibitory effects. In mixed synovial cells, significant effects of TNF on catecholamine release were observed only in OA. This study shows that TNF inhibits iTH+ synovial cells leading to the decrease of secreted noradrenaline. This might be a reason why discovered newly appearing TH+ cells in the synovium are not able to develop their possible full anti-inflammatory role in arthritis.

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2018 Mar;1864(3):851-859. Epub 2017 Dec 19. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2017.12.024.

Extracellular matrix content and WNT/β-catenin levels of cartilage determine the chondrocyte response to compressive load
Heiko Praxenthaler, Elisabeth Krämer, Melanie Weisser, Nicole Hecht, Jennifer Fischer, Tobias Grossner, Wiltrud Richter

Abstract: During osteoarthritis (OA)-development extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules are lost from cartilage, thus changing gene-expression, matrix synthesis and biomechanical competence of the tissue. Mechanical loading is important for the maintenance of articular cartilage; however, the influence of an altered ECM content on the response of chondrocytes to loading is not well understood, but may provide important insights into underlying mechanisms as well as supplying new therapies for OA. Objective here was to explore whether a changing ECM-content of engineered cartilage affects major signaling pathways and how this alters the chondrocyte response to compressive loading. Activity of canonical WNT-, BMP-, TGF-β- and p38-signaling was determined during maturation of human engineered cartilage and followed after exposure to a single dynamic compression-episode. WNT/β-catenin- and pSmad1/5/9-levels declined with increasing ECM-content of cartilage. While loading significantly suppressed proteoglycan-synthesis and ACAN-expression at low ECM-content this catabolic response then shifted to an anabolic reaction at high ECM-content. A positive correlation was observed between GAG-content and load-induced alteration of proteoglycan-synthesis. Induction of high β-catenin levels by the WNT-agonist CHIR suppressed load-induced SOX9- and GAG-stimulation in mature constructs. In contrast, the WNT-antagonist IWP-2 was capable of attenuating load-induced GAG-suppression in immature constructs. In conclusion, either ECM accumulation-associated or pharmacologically induced silencing of WNT-levels allowed for a more anabolic reaction of chondrocytes to physiological loading. This is consistent with the role of proteoglycans in sequestering WNT-ligands in the ECM, thus reducing WNT-activity and also provides a novel explanation of why low WNT-activity in cartilage protects from OA-development in mechanically overstressed cartilage.

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan 26;19(2):367. doi: 10.3390/ijms19020367.

Do Neuroendocrine Peptides and Their Receptors Qualify as Novel Therapeutic Targets in Osteoarthritis?
Susanne Grässel, Dominique Muschter

Abstract: Joint tissues like synovium, articular cartilage, meniscus and subchondral bone, are targets for neuropeptides. Resident cells of these tissues express receptors for various neuroendocrine-derived peptides including proopiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived peptides, i.e., α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH), adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and β-endorphin (β-ED), and sympathetic neuropeptides like vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and neuropeptide y (NPY). Melanocortins attained particular attention due to their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects in several tissues and organs. In particular, α-MSH, ACTH and specific melanocortin-receptor (MCR) agonists appear to have promising anti-inflammatory actions demonstrated in animal models of experimentally induced arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA). Sympathetic neuropeptides have obtained increasing attention as they have crucial trophic effects that are critical for joint tissue and bone homeostasis. VIP and NPY are implicated in direct and indirect activation of several anabolic signaling pathways in bone and synovial cells. Additionally, pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) proved to be chondroprotective and, thus, might be a novel target in OA. Taken together, it appears more and more likely that the anabolic effects of these neuroendocrine peptides or their respective receptor agonists/antagonists may be exploited for the treatment of patients with inflammatory and degenerative joint diseases in the future.

J Cell Physiol. 2018 Jan;233(1):699-711. Epub 2017 May 19. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25933.

Global chondrocyte gene expression after a single anabolic loading period: Time evolution and re-inducibility of mechano-responses
Simone Scholtes, Elisabeth Krämer, Melanie Weisser, Wolfgang Roth, Reto Luginbühl, Tobias Grossner, Wiltrud Richter

Abstract: Aim of this study was a genome-wide identification of mechano-regulated genes and candidate pathways in human chondrocytes subjected to a single anabolic loading episode and characterization of time evolution and re-inducibility of the response. Osteochondral constructs consisting of a chondrocyte-seeded collagen-scaffold connected to β-tricalcium-phosphate were pre-cultured for 35 days and subjected to dynamic compression (25% strain, 1 Hz, 9 × 10 min over 3 hr) before microarray-profiling was performed. Proteoglycan synthesis was determined by 35 S-sulfate-incorporation over 24 hr. Cell viability and hardness of constructs were unaltered by dynamic compression while proteoglycan synthesis was significantly stimulated (1.45-fold, p = 0.016). Among 115 significantly regulated genes, 114 were up-regulated, 48 of them ≥ twofold. AP-1-relevant transcription factors FOSB and FOS strongly increased in line with elevated ERK1/2-phosphorylation and rising MAP3K4 expression. Expression of proteoglycan-synthesizing enzymes CHSY1 and GALNT4 was load-responsive as were factors associated with the MAPK-, TGF-β-, calcium-, retinoic-acid-, Wnt-, and Notch-signaling pathway which were significantly upregulated SOX9, and BMP6 levels rose significantly also after multiple loading episodes at daily intervals even at the 14th cycle with no indication for desensitation. Canonical pSmad2/3 and pSmad1/5/9-signaling showed no consistent regulation. This study associates novel genes with mechanoregulation in chondrocytes, raising SOX9 protein levels with anabolic loading and suggests that more pathways than so far anticipated apparently work together in a complex network of stimulators and feedback-regulators. Upregulation of mechanosensitive indicators extending differentially into the resting time provides crucial knowledge to maximize cartilage matrix deposition for the generation of high-level cartilage replacement tissue.


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Susanne Grässel

University Hospital Regensburg

Orthopedic Surgery, Div. Experimental Orthopedics

Biopark I - ZMB

Am Biopark 9

D-93053 Regensburg


Tel.: +49 (0) 941 943 5065

Fax: +49 (0) 941 943 5066