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      Skeletal unloading induces a full-thickness patellar cartilage defect with increase of urinary collagen II CTx degradation marker in growing rats

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      Elsevier BV

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          Mechanical stress plays an important role in tissue morphogenesis and extracellular matrix metabolism. However, little is known about the effects of reduced loading without restriction of joint motion on the patella. We investigated the effects of long-term skeletal unloading on patellar cartilage and subchondral bone and systemic collagen II metabolism. Nine-week-old male F344/N rats (n=128) were randomly divided into two groups: caged control (C) and tail suspended (TS). Hindlimbs of the TS rats were subjected to unloading for up to 12 weeks. Sequential changes in the patellar cartilage and subchondral bone were analyzed macroscopically, by pathological findings and histomorphologically. All animals received double tidemark fluorochrome labeling prior to sacrifice. Glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content in patellar cartilage, cross-linked C-telopeptide of type II collagen (CTx-II) in 24-h urine and type II procollagen-C-peptide (pCol-II-C) in sera were also measured by DMB assay, ELISA and EIA, respectively. In the TS group, GAG content was significantly reduced only during the first 3 weeks. No further significant decrease was found. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity was increased, especially at the deep zone. Tidemark mineral apposition rate (MAR) was temporally increased, which resulted in an increase in the ratio of calcified cartilage to the entire cartilage. In the medial part, in addition, thickness of the entire cartilage was decreased by temporal acceleration of subchondral ossification advancement and, in the medial margin, a full-thickness cartilage defect was revealed in 88.6% of TS rats. However, the remaining articular surface was free from fibrillation. While urinary CTx-II was significantly increased during the experimental periods, serum pCol-II-C was significantly decreased at the early phase. There were significant correlations between the urinary CTx-II levels and tidemark MAR. Our results provided evidence that skeletal unloading increased ALP activity at the deep zone and temporally accelerated tidemark advancement associated with a decrease in proteoglycan content. In addition, skeletal unloading temporally accelerated subchondral ossification advancement in the medial part of the patella and finally induced a full-thickness patellar cartilage defect without any fibrillation at the remaining articular surface by additional subchondral bone modeling and possible retarded cartilage growth, which was through a different mechanism than overloading.

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          Elsevier BV
          February 2009
          February 2009
          : 44
          : 2
          : 295-305
          © 2009


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