Effect of Inflammatory Signaling on Human Articular Chondrocyte Hypertrophy: Potential Involvement of Tissue Repair Macrophages

Mauricio N. Ferrao Blanco, Yvonne M. Bastiaansen-Jenniskens, Mark G. Chambers, Andrew A. Pitsillides, Roberto Narcisi, Gerjo J.V.M. van Osch

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Objective: In osteoarthritis, chondrocytes tend to acquire a hypertrophic phenotype, which contributes to the modification of the extracellular matrix, resulting in permanent cartilage changes. In mouse chondrocytes, pro-inflammatory macrophages and pro-inflammatory cytokines have been shown to stimulate hypertrophy via the activation of the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) pathway. Whether or not this also occurs in human chondrocytes remains unclear. We therefore aimed to investigate whether hypertrophy-like responses in human cartilage are driven mainly by intrinsic inflammatory signaling or shaped by specific macrophage populations. Design: Human articular chondrocytes were cultured with pro-inflammatory cytokines or medium conditioned by defined macrophage subsets. Furthermore, the effect of inhibition of NF-κB-dependent gene expression was evaluated using the NF-κB inhibitor SC-514. Hypertrophy was assessed by measuring the transcription level of alkaline phosphatase (ALPL), type X collagen (COL10A1), Indian hedgehog (IHH), and runt-related transcription factor 2 (RUNX2). Results: The expression of hypertrophic genes was not promoted in human chondrocytes by pro-inflammatory cytokines neither pro-inflammatory M(IFNγ + TNFα) macrophages. Inhibition of the NF-κB-dependent gene expression did not affect human articular chondrocyte hypertrophy. However, tissue repair M(IL4) macrophages induced hypertrophy by promoting the expression of COL10A1, RUNX2, and IHH. Conclusion: Intrinsic inflammatory signaling activation is not involved in the hypertrophic shift observed in human articular chondrocytes cultured in vitro. However, tissue repair macrophages may contribute to the onset of this detrimental phenotype in human osteoarthritic cartilage, given the effect observed in our experimental models.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • articular chondrocytes
  • hypertrophy
  • inflammation
  • macrophages
  • osteoarthritis


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