Subtractive gene expression profiling of articular cartilage and mesenchymal stem cells: serpins as cartilage-relevant differentiation markers

S Boeuf, E Steck, K Pelttari, T Hennig, A Buneb, K Benz, D Witte, H Sültmann, A Poustka, W Richter
Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 2008, 16 (1): 48-60

OBJECTIVE: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a population of cells broadly discussed to support cartilage repair. The differentiation of MSCs into articular chondrocytes is, however, still poorly understood on the molecular level. The aim of this study was to perform an almost genome-wide screen for genes differentially expressed between cartilage and MSCs and to extract new markers useful to define chondrocyte differentiation stages.

METHODS: Gene expression profiles of MSCs (n=8) and articular cartilage from OA patients (n=7) were compared on a 30,000 cDNA-fragment array and differentially expressed genes were extracted by subtraction. Expression of selected genes was assessed during in vitro chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs and during dedifferentiation of expanded chondrocytes using quantitative and semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Protein secretion was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

RESULTS: Eighty-seven genes were differentially expressed between MSCs and cartilage with a more than three-fold difference. Sixty-seven of them were higher expressed in cartilage and among them 15 genes were previously not detected in cartilage. Differential expression was confirmed for 69% of 26 reanalysed genes by RT-PCR. The profiles of three unknown transcripts and six protease-related molecules were characterised during differentiation. SERPINA1 and SERPINA3 mRNA expression correlated with chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs and dedifferentiation of chondrocytes, and SERPINA1 protein levels in culture supernatants could be correlated alike.

CONCLUSIONS: cDNA-array analysis identified SERPINA1 and A3 as new differentiation-relevant genes for cartilage. Since SERPINA1 secretion correlated with both chondrogenesis of MSCs and dedifferentiation during chondrocyte expansion, it represents an attractive marker for refinement of chondrocyte differentiation.

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