Abstract

Background: Preclinical and clinical studies have shown that salmon calcitonin has cartilage protective effects in joint degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis (OA). However, the presence of the calcitonin receptor (CTR) in articular cartilage chondrocytes is yet to be identified. In this study, we sought to further investigate the expression of the CTR in naïve human OA articular chondrocytes to gain further confirmation of the existents of the CTR in articular cartilage.

Methods: Total RNA was purified from primary chondrocytes from articular cartilage biopsies from four OA patients undergoing total knee replacement. High quality cDNA was produced using a dedicated reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) protocol. From this a nested PCR assay amplifying the full coding region of the CTR mRNA was completed. Western blotting and immunohistochemistry were used to characterize CTR protein on protein level in chondrocytes.

Results: The full coding transcript of the CTR isoform 2 was identified in all four individuals. DNA sequencing revealed a number of allelic variants of the gene including two potentially novel polymorphisms: a frame shift mutation, +473del, producing a shorter form of the receptor protein, and a single nucleotide polymorphism in the 3' non coding region of the transcript, +1443 C>T. A 53 kDa protein band, consistent with non-glycosylated CTR isoform 2, was detected in chondrocytes with a similar size to that expressed in osteoclasts. Moreover the CTR was identified in the plasma membrane and the chondrocyte lacuna of both primary chondrocytes and OA cartilage section.

Conclusions: Human OA articular cartilage chondrocytes do indeed express the CTR, which makes the articular a pharmacological target of salmon calcitonin. In addition, the results support previous findings suggesting that calcitonin has a direct anabolic effect on articular cartilage.

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