Effects of shear stress on articular chondrocyte metabolism.
The articular cartilage of diarthrodial joints experiences a variety of stresses, strains and pressures that result from normal activities of daily living. In normal cartilage, the extracellular matrix exists as a highly organized composite of specialized macromolecules that distributes loads at the bony ends. The chondrocyte response to mechanical loading is recognized as an integral component in the maintenance of articular cartilage matrix homeostasis. With inappropriate mechanical loading of the joint, as occurs with traumatic injury, ligament instability, bony malalignment or excessive weight bearing, the cartilage exhibits manifestations characteristic of osteoarthritis. Breakdown of cartilage in osteoarthritis involves degradation of the extracellular matrix macromolecules and decreased expression of chondrocyte proteins necessary for normal joint function. Osteoarthritic cartilage often exhibits increased amounts of type I collagen and synthesis of proteoglycans characteristic of immature cartilage. The shift in cartilage phenotype in response to altered load yields a matrix that fails to support normal joint function. Mathematical modeling and experimental studies in animal models confirm an association between altered loading of diarthrotic joints and arthritic changes. Both types of studies implicate shear forces as a critical component in the destructive profile. The severity of cartilage destruction in response to altered loads appears linked to expression of biological factors influencing matrix integrity and cellular metabolism. Determining how shear stress alters chondrocyte metabolism is fundamental to understanding how to limit matrix destruction and stimulate cartilage repair and regeneration. At present, the precise biochemical and molecular mechanisms by which shear forces alter chondrocyte metabolism from a normal to a degenerative phenotype remain unclear. The results presented here address the hypothesis that articular chondrocyte metabolism is modulated by direct effects of shear forces that act on the cell through mechanotransduction processes. The purpose of this work is to develop critical knowledge regarding the basic mechanisms by which mechanical loading modulates cartilage metabolism in health and disease. This presentation will describe the effects of using fluid induced shear stress as a model system for stimulation of articular chondrocytes in vitro. The fluid induced shear stress was applied using a cone viscometer system to stimulate all the cells uniformly under conditions of minimal turbulence. The experiments were carried using high-density primary monolayer cultures of normal and osteoarthritic human and normal bovine articular chondrocytes. The analysis of the cellular response included quantification of cytokine release, matrix metalloproteinase expression and activation of intracellular signaling pathways. The data presented here show that articular chondrocytes exhibit a dose- and time-dependent response to shear stress that results in the release of soluble mediators and extracellular matrix macromolecules. The data suggest that the chondrocyte response to mechanical stimulation contributes to the maintenance of articular cartilage homeostasis in vivo.