Inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase induces apoptosis of human chondrocytes.J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 20; 276(16):13289-94.JB
We previously have reported that the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is stimulated by adhesion of human chondrocytes to anti-beta(1)-integrin antibodies or collagen type II in vitro. These mechanisms most likely prevent chondrocyte dedifferentiation to fibroblast-like cells and chondrocyte death. To investigate whether this pathway plays an essential role for the differentiation, phenotype, and survival of chondrocytes, we blocked mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk) (MEK), a kinase upstream of the kinase Erk by using U0126. Exposure of chondrocytes to U0126 caused activation of caspase-3 in a dose-dependent manner. Western blot analysis with an antibody specific for dually phosphorylated Erk shows that collagen type II induced phosphorylation of Erk1/2 was specifically blocked by U0126 in a dose-dependent manner. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that treated chondrocytes were caspase-3 positive. In treated chondrocytes, the cleavage of 116-kDa poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase resulted in the 85-kDa apoptosis-related cleavage fragment and was associated with caspase-3 activity. Analysis by electron microscopy showed typical morphological signs of apoptosis, such as crescent-shaped clumps of heterochromatin, and a degraded pericellular matrix. Thus, these results indicate that the MEK/Erk signal transduction pathway is involved in the maintenance of chondrocytes differentiation and survival. These data stimulate further investigations on the role of mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways in human chondrocytes.