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Open Access Research article

Catabolic stress induces expression of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α in articular chondrocytes: involvement of HIF-1α in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis

Kazuo Yudoh*, Hiroshi Nakamura, Kayo Masuko-Hongo, Tomohiro Kato and Kusuki Nishioka

Author Affiliations

Department of Bioregulation, Institute of Medical Science, St. Marianna University School of Medicine, Kawasaki, Japan

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2005, 7:R904-R914  doi:10.1186/ar1765

Published: 27 May 2005

Abstract

Transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1 protein accumulates and activates the transcription of genes that are of fundamental importance for oxygen homeostasis – including genes involved in energy metabolism, angiogenesis, vasomotor control, apoptosis, proliferation, and matrix production – under hypoxic conditions. We speculated that HIF-1α may have an important role in chondrocyte viability as a cell survival factor during the progression of osteoarthritis (OA). The expression of HIF-1α mRNA in human OA cartilage samples was analyzed by real-time PCR. We analyzed whether or not the catabolic factors IL-1β and H2O2 induce the expression of HIF-1α in OA chondrocytes under normoxic and hypoxic conditions (O2 <6%). We investigated the levels of energy generation, cartilage matrix production, and apoptosis induction in HIF-1α-deficient chondrocytes under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. In articular cartilages from human OA patients, the expression of HIF-1α mRNA was higher in the degenerated regions than in the intact regions. Both IL-1β and H2O2 accelerated mRNA and protein levels of HIF-1α in cultured chondrocytes. Inhibitors for phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and p38 kinase caused a significant decrease in catabolic-factor-induced HIF-1α expression. HIF-1α-deficient chondrocytes did not maintain energy generation and cartilage matrix production under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions. Also, HIF-1α-deficient chondrocytes showed an acceleration of catabolic stress-induced apoptosis in vitro. Our findings in human OA cartilage show that HIF-1α expression in OA cartilage is associated with the progression of articular cartilage degeneration. Catabolic-stresses, IL-1β, and oxidative stress induce the expression of HIF-1α in chondrocytes. Our results suggest an important role of stress-induced HIF-1α in the maintenance of chondrocyte viability in OA articular cartilage.