The effects of physiological and injurious hydrostatic pressure on murine ex vivo articular and growth plate cartilage explants: an RNAseq study

Lucie Bourne, Andrew Hesketh, Aikta Sharma, Giselda Bucca, Peter Bush, Katherine Staines

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Chondrocytes are continuously exposed to loads placed upon them. Physiological loads are pivotal to the maintenance of articular cartilage health, while abnormal loads contribute to pathological joint degradation. Similarly, the growth plate cartilage is subject to various loads during growth and development. Due to the high-water content of cartilage, hydrostatic pressure is considered one of the main biomechanical influencers on chondrocytes and has been shown to play an important role in the mechano-regulation of cartilage. Herein, we conducted RNAseq analysis of ex vivo hip cap (articular), and metatarsal (growth plate) cartilage cultures subjected to physiological (5 MPa) and injurious (50 MPa) hydrostatic pressure, using the Illumina platform (n = 4 replicates). Several hundreds of genes were shown to be differentially modulated by hydrostatic pressure, with the majority of these changes evidenced in hip cap cartilage cultures (375 significantly upregulated and 322 downregulated in 5 MPa versus control; 1022 upregulated and 724 downregulated in 50 MPa versus control). Conversely, fewer genes were differentially affected by hydrostatic pressure in the metatarsal cultures (5 significantly upregulated and 23 downregulated in 5 MPa versus control; 7 significantly upregulated and 19 downregulated in 50 MPa versus control). Using Gene Ontology annotations for Biological Processes, in the hip cap data we identified a number of pathways that were modulated by both physiological and injurious hydrostatic pressure. Pathways upregulated in response to 50 MPa versus control, included those involved in the generation of precursor metabolites and cellular respiration. Biological processes that were downregulated in this tissue included ossification, connective tissue development, and chondrocyte differentiation. Collectively our data highlights the divergent chondrocyte phenotypes in articular and growth plate cartilage. Further, we show that the magnitude of hydrostatic pressure application has distinct effects on gene expression and biological processes in hip cap cartilage explants. Finally, we identified differential expression of a number of genes that have previously been identified as osteoarthritis risk genes, including Ctsk, and Chadl. Together these data may provide potential genetic targets for future investigations in osteoarthritis research and novel therapeutics. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023 Bourne, Hesketh, Sharma, Bucca, Bush and Staines.]
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

The author(s) declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. We are grateful to Medical Research Council (to KS; MR/R022240/2 & MR/V033506/1) for funding. We are also grateful to the University of Brighton for a Rising Stars Award to KS.


  • cartilage
  • osteoarthritis
  • hydrostatic pressure
  • chondrocytes
  • endochondral ossification
  • RNAseq


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