ObjectiveThe presence or relative proportion of progesterone nuclear receptors (PR) in different tissues may contribute to sexual dimorphism in these tissues. PR is expressed in chondrocytes, but its function is mostly unknown. We hypothesized that the PR may regulate chondrocyte metabolism and affect subchondral bone structure.
MethodsWe utilized genetic fate mapping and immunohistochemistry to elucidate PR expression in and effect on cartilage. To define sex-dependent and chondrocyte-specific effects of the PR on subchondral bone, we selectively deleted PR in osteochondrogenic progenitor cells marked by Prx1 (Prx1; PRcKO) and Collagen 2 (Col2; PRcKO), or in matured chondrocytes marked by aggrecan (Acan; PRcKO) and evaluated subchondral bone structure at 4 months of age. Chondrocyte aging was monitored by anti-senescence marker p16INK4a, and MMP13, one of the Senescence-Associated Secretary Phenotype (SASP) components.
ResultsCompared to wild-type (WT) mice, the female Prx1; PRcKO and the Col2; PRcKO mice had greater total subchondral bone volume and greater subchondral cortical bone thickness, with increased estimated subchondral bone stiffness and failure load in both female and male Col2; PRcKO mice. Moreover, Col2; PRcKO mice from both sexes had greater bone formation and bone strength at the femurs. In contrast, we did not observe any subchondral bone changes in Acan; PRcKO mice other than higher work-to-failure observed in the male Acan; PRcKO mice. Despite no detected difference in articular cartilage between the WT and the PR; chondrocyte conditional deletion mice, there were greater numbers of senescent chondrocytes and increased MMP13 expression, especially in the male mutant mice.
ConclusionThese findings suggest that selective inhibition of PR in osteoprogenitor cells, but not in terminally differentiated chondrocytes, induced an increased subchondral bone phenotype and high estimated subchondral bone strength, which might be associated with the development of osteoarthritis in older age.