Previously, we reported an improvement in the transfection efficiency of the plasmid DNA-chitosan (pDNA/CS) complex by the utilization of phosphorylatable short peptide-conjugated chitosan (pSP-CS). In this study, we investigated the effects of pSP-CS-mediated gene transfection of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IL-1Ra) combined with insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in rabbit chondrocytes and in a rabbit model of cartilage defects. pBudCE4.1- IL-1Ra+igf-1, pBudCE4.1-IL-1Ra and pBudCE4.1-igf-1 were constructed and combined with pSP-CS to form pDNA/pSP-CS complexes. These complexes were transfected into rabbit primary chondrocytes or injected into the joint cavity. Seven weeks after treatment, all rabbits were sacrificed and analyzed. High levels of IL-1Ra and igf-1 expression were detected both in the cell culture supernatant and in the synovial fluid. In vitro, the transgenic complexes caused significant proliferation of chondrocytes, promotion of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen II synthesis, and inhibition of chondrocyte apoptosis and nitric oxide (NO) synthesis. In vivo , the exogenous genes resulted in increased collagen II synthesis and reduced NO and GAG concentrations in the synovial fluid; histological studies revealed that pDNA/pSP-CS treatment resulted in varying degrees of hyaline-like cartilage repair and Mankin score decrease. The co-expression of both genes produced greater effects than each single gene alone both in vitro and in vivo . The results suggest that pSP-CS is a good candidate for use in gene therapy for the treatment of cartilage defects and that igf-1 and IL-1Ra co-expression produces promising biologic effects on cartilage defects.
Zhao, R., Peng, X., Li, Q., & Song, W. (2014). Effects of phosphorylatable short peptide-conjugated chitosan-mediated IL-1RA and IGF-1 gene transfer on articular cartilage defects in rabbits. PLoS ONE, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0112284