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Central Role of SREBP-2 in the Pathogenesis of Osteoarthritis
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Author: Fotini Kostopoulou et al.

by Fotini Kostopoulou, Vasiliki Gkretsi, Konstantinos N. Malizos, Dimitrios Iliopoulos, Pagona Oikonomou, Lazaros Poultsides, Aspasia Tsezou


Recent studies have implied that osteoarthritis (OA) is a metabolic disease linked to deregulation of genes involved in lipid metabolism and cholesterol efflux. Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins (SREBPs) are transcription factors regulating lipid metabolism with so far no association with OA. Our aim was to test the hypothesis that SREBP-2, a gene that plays a key role in cholesterol homeostasis, is crucially involved in OA pathogenesis and to identify possible mechanisms of action.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We performed a genetic association analysis using a cohort of 1,410 Greek OA patients and healthy controls and found significant association between single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) 1784G>C in SREBP-2 gene and OA development. Moreover, the above SNP was functionally active, as normal chondrocytes’ transfection with SREBP-2-G/C plasmid resulted in interleukin-1ß and metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13) upregulation. We also evaluated SREBP-2, its target gene 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzymeA reductase (HMGCR), phospho-phosphoinositide3-kinase (PI3K), phospho-Akt, integrin-alphaV (ITGAV) and transforming growth factor-ß (TGF-ß) mRNA and protein expression levels in osteoarthritic and normal chondrocytes and found that they were all significantly elevated in OA chondrocytes. To test whether TGF-ß alone can induce SREBP-2, we treated normal chondrocytes with TGF-ß and found significant upregulation of SREBP-2, HMGCR, phospho-PI3K and MMP-13. We also showed that TGF-ß activated aggrecan (ACAN) in chondrocytes only through Smad3, which interacts with SREBP-2. Finally, we examined the effect of an integrin inhibitor, cyclo-RGDFV peptide, on osteoarthritic chondrocytes, and found that it resulted in significant upregulation of ACAN and downregulation of SREBP-2, HMGCR, phospho-PI3K and MMP-13 expression levels.


We demonstrated, for the first time, the association of SREBP-2 with OA pathogenesis and provided evidence on the molecular mechanism involved. We suggest that TGF-ß induces SREBP-2 pathway activation through ITGAV and PI3K playing a key role in OA and that integrin blockage may be a potential molecular target for OA treatment.