Overexpression of Smad ubiquitin regulatory factor 2 (Smurf2) in chondrocytes was reported to cause spontaneous osteoarthritis (OA) in mice. However, it is unclear whether Smurf2 is involved in bone and cartilage homeostasis and if it is required for OA pathogenesis. Here we characterized age-related changes in the bone and articular cartilage of Smurf2-deficient (MT) mice by microCT and histology, and examined whether reduced Smurf2 expression affected the severity of OA upon surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM). Using immature articular chondrocytes (iMAC) from MT and wild-type (WT) mice, we also examined how Smurf2 deficiency affects chondrogenic and catabolic gene expressions and Smurf2 and Smurf1 proteins upon TGF-β3 or IL-1β treatment in culture. We found no differences in cortical, subchondral and trabecular bone between WT and MT in young (4 months) and old mice (16-24 months). The articular cartilage and age-related alterations between WT and MT were also similar. However, 2 months following DMM, young MT showed milder OA compared to WT (~70% vs ~30% normal or exhibiting only mild OA cartilage phenotype). The majority of the older WT and MT mice developed moderate/severe OA 2 months after DMM, but a higher subset of aged MT cartilage (27% vs. 9% WT) remained largely normal. Chondrogenic gene expression (Sox9, Col2, Acan) trended higher in MT iMACs than WT with/without TGF-β3 treatment. IL-1β treatment suppressed chondrgenic gene expression, but Sox9 expression in MT remained significantly higher than WT. Smurf2 protein in WT iMACs increased upon TGF-β3 treatment and decreased upon IL-1β treatment in a dose-dependent manner. Smurf1 protein elevated more in MT than WT upon TGF-β3 treatment, suggesting a potential, but very mild compensatory effect. Overall, our data support a role of Smurf2 in regulating OA development but suggest that inhibiting Smurf2 alone may not be sufficient to prevent or consistently mitigate post-traumatic OA across a broad age range.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jie_song/45/