Extracellular matrix changes in knee joint cartilage following bone-active drug treatment

  • Horst Claassen
  • Christian Cellarius
  • Katharina E. Scholz-Ahrens
  • Jürgen Schrezenmeir
  • Claus-Christian Glüer
  • Michael Schünke
  • Bodo Kurz
Regular Article


Certain drugs or treatments that are known to affect bone quality or integrity might have side effects on the extracellular matrix of articular cartilage. We investigated the effects of vitamin D and calcium deficiency, estrogen deficiency, and hypercortisolism alone or in combination with bisphosphonates or sodium fluoride in an animal model, viz., the Göttingen miniature pig (n=29). The articular cartilage from knee joints was analyzed for its content of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs, as macromolecules responsible for the elasticity of articular cartilage) by a spectrometric method with dimethylene blue chloride. In cryo- or paraffin sections, alkaline phosphatase (AP, as an enzyme indicating mineralization or reorganization of articular cartilage matrix) was localized by enzyme histochemistry, and positive cells were counted, whereas differently sulfated GAGs were stained histochemically. A significant decrease in GAG content was measured in ovariectomized and long-term glucocorticoid-treated animals compared with untreated animals. In the glucocorticoid/sodium fluoride group, GAGs were significantly diminished, and significantly fewer AP-positive chondrocytes were counted compared with the control. GAG content was slightly higher, and significantly more AP-positive chondrocytes were counted in short-term glucocorticoid-treated animals then in the control group. GAGs, as part of proteoglycans, are responsible for the water-storage capacity that gives articular cartilage its unique property of elasticity. Thus, ovariectomy and long-term glucocorticoid therapy, especially when combined with sodium fluoride, have detrimental effects on this tissue.


Articular cartilage Glycosaminoglycans Water content Bone-active drug treatment Göttingen miniature pigs 



We thank Ms. R. Kirsch, Ms. C. Kremling, and Mr. F. Lichte for excellent assistance during the performance of the experiments, Dr. A. Caliebe (Department of Stochastics at the Mathematical-Natural Sciences Faculty, Kiel University) for help with the statistical evaluation of the data, and Horst Fischer and Jochen Kunze for conscientious animals care.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Horst Claassen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian Cellarius
    • 2
  • Katharina E. Scholz-Ahrens
    • 3
  • Jürgen Schrezenmeir
    • 3
  • Claus-Christian Glüer
    • 4
  • Michael Schünke
    • 2
  • Bodo Kurz
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für Anatomie und Zellbiologie der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  2. 2.Anatomisches Institut der Christian-Albrechts-Universität KielKielGermany
  3. 3.Institut für Physiologie und Biochemie der Ernährung der Bundesforschungsanstalt für Ernährung und Lebensmittel, Standort KielKielGermany
  4. 4.Medizinische Physik, Klinik für Diagnostische RadiologieUniversitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus KielKielGermany

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