Age-related changes in the response of human articular cartilage to IL-1 alpha and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) - Chondrocytes exhibit a diminished sensitivity to TGF-beta

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Cartilage glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis and composition, upon which its structural integrity depends, varies with age, is modified by anabolic and catabolic stimuli, and is regulated by UDP-glucuronate availability. However, how such stimuli, prototypically represented by transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) and IL-1alpha, modify GAG synthesis during aging of normal human articular cartilage is not known. Using explants, we show that chondroitin sulfate (CS): total GAG ratios decrease, whereas C6S:C4S ratios increase with cartilage maturation, and that chondrocytes in the cartilage mid-zone, but not the superficial or deep zones, exhibit uridine 5'-diphosphoglucose dehydrogenase (UDPGD) activity, which is also increased in mature cartilage. We also show that IL-1alpha treatment reduces both total GAG and CS synthesis, decreases C6S: C4S ratios (less C6S), but fails to modify chondrocyte UDPGD activity at all ages. On the other hand, TGF-beta1 increases total GAG synthesis in immature, but not mature, cartilage (stimulates CS but not non-CS), age-independently decreases C6S:C4S (more C4S), and increases chondrocyte UDPGD activity in a manner inversely correlated with age. Our findings show that TGF-beta1, but not IL-1alpha, modifies matrix synthesis such that its composition more closely resembles "less mature" articular cartilage. These effects of TGF-beta1, which appear to be restricted to periods of skeletal immaturity, are closely associated although not necessarily mechanistically linked with increases in chondrocyte UDPGD activity. The antianabolic effects of IL-1alpha are, on the other hand, likely to be independent of any direct modification in UDPGD activity and manifest equally in human cartilage of all ages.


  • Mark Hickery
  • MT Bayliss
  • J Dudhia
  • JC Lewthwaite
  • JCW Edwards
  • AA Pitsillides
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53063-53071
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Connective Tissue Biology (013230151), Department of Cell and Organism Biology (Closed 2011.) (011002100)