Transforming growth factor β-induced superficial zone protein accumulation in the surface zone of articular cartilage is dependent on the cytoskeleton

Sean M. Mcnary, Kyriacos A Athanasiou, A. Hari Reddi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The phenotype of articular chondrocytes is dependent on the cytoskeleton, specifically the actin microfilament architecture. Articular chondrocytes in monolayer culture undergo dedifferentiation and assume a fibroblastic phenotype. This process can be reversed by altering the actin cytoskeleton by treatment with cytochalasin. Whereas dedifferentiation has been studied on chondrocytes isolated from the whole cartilage, the effects of cytoskeletal alteration on specific zones of cells such as superficial zone chondrocytes are not known. Chondrocytes from the superficial zone secrete superficial zone protein (SZP), a lubricating proteoglycan that reduces the coefficient of friction of articular cartilage. A better understanding of this phenomenon may be useful in elucidating chondrocyte dedifferentiation in monolayer and accumulation of the cartilage lubricant SZP, with an eye toward tissue engineering functional articular cartilage. In this investigation, the effects of cytoskeletal modulation on the ability of superficial zone chondrocytes to secrete SZP were examined. Primary superficial zone chondrocytes were cultured in monolayer and treated with a combination of cytoskeleton modifying reagents and transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) 1, a critical regulator of SZP production. Whereas cytochalasin D maintains the articular chondrocyte phenotype, the hallmark of the superficial zone chondrocyte, SZP, was inhibited in the presence of TGFβ1. A decrease in TGFβ1-induced SZP accumulation was also observed when the microtubule cytoskeleton was modified using paclitaxel. These effects of actin and microtubule alteration were confirmed through the application of jasplakinolide and colchicine, respectively. As Rho GTPases regulate actin organization and microtubule polymerization, we hypothesized that the cytoskeleton is critical for TGFβ-induced SZP accumulation. TGFβ-mediated SZP accumulation was inhibited by small molecule inhibitors ML141 (Cdc42), NSC23766 (Rac1), and Y27632 (Rho effector Rho Kinase). On the other hand, lysophosphatidic acid, an upstream activator of Rho, increased SZP synthesis in response to TGFβ1. These results suggest that SZP production is dependent on the functional cytoskeleton, and Rho GTPases contribute to SZP accumulation by modulating the actions of TGFβ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-929
Number of pages9
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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