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Single-Cell RNA-Seq Reveals Transcriptomic Heterogeneity and Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis-Associated Early Molecular Changes in Mouse Articular Chondrocytes.

  • Author(s): Sebastian, Aimy
  • McCool, Jillian L
  • Hum, Nicholas R
  • Murugesh, Deepa K
  • Wilson, Stephen P
  • Christiansen, Blaine A
  • Loots, Gabriela G
  • et al.

Articular cartilage is a connective tissue lining the surfaces of synovial joints. When the cartilage severely wears down, it leads to osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating disease that affects millions of people globally. The articular cartilage is composed of a dense extracellular matrix (ECM) with a sparse distribution of chondrocytes with varying morphology and potentially different functions. Elucidating the molecular and functional profiles of various chondrocyte subtypes and understanding the interplay between these chondrocyte subtypes and other cell types in the joint will greatly expand our understanding of joint biology and OA pathology. Although recent advances in high-throughput OMICS technologies have enabled molecular-level characterization of tissues and organs at an unprecedented resolution, thorough molecular profiling of articular chondrocytes has not yet been undertaken, which may be in part due to the technical difficulties in isolating chondrocytes from dense cartilage ECM. In this study, we profiled articular cartilage from healthy and injured mouse knee joints at a single-cell resolution and identified nine chondrocyte subtypes with distinct molecular profiles and injury-induced early molecular changes in these chondrocytes. We also compared mouse chondrocyte subpopulations to human chondrocytes and evaluated the extent of molecular similarity between mice and humans. This work expands our view of chondrocyte heterogeneity and rapid molecular changes in chondrocyte populations in response to joint trauma and highlights potential mechanisms that trigger cartilage degeneration.

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