Characterization of apoptosis in articular cartilage derived from the knee joints of patients with osteoarthritis



The present study was conduced in order to analyse the molecular changes during the apoptotic cascade in knee articular cartilage of patients with OA.


Articular cartilage specimens were assessed by histology (Haematoxylin and Eosin), histochemistry (Masson’s Trichromic and Alcian Blue), immunohistochemistry through TRAIL, DR5 and Caspase-3, TUNEL and Hoechst staining in fresh isolated chondrocytes.


Histology results demonstrated the structural alterations in the articular knee cartilage with OA, and histochemistry results demonstrated the presence of matrix calcification and a proteoglycans reduction. Immunohistochemistry staining showed that structural alterations, matrix calcification and a proteoglycans reduction coincided with an increase in apoptotic cells when compared to normal cartilage; however, this cellular mechanism of death was demonstrated by TUNEL and Hoechst 33258 staining in fresh isolated chondrocytes.


In this study, we demonstrated an apoptosis activation by the extrinsic pathway in OA cartilage. The apoptosis-positive cells might be due to a protection mechanism after sublethal injury, in particular, represented by an increased survival of chondrocytes that are able to participate in the repair process.

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This study was supported by grants provided by the Medicine and Surgery Faculty of Catania, Department of Anatomy, Diagnostic Pathology, Forensic Medicine, Hygiene and Public Health, University of Catania. The authors would like to thank Professor Jennifer H. Eliseeff and Dr. Iossif Strehin from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA for commenting and making corrections to the paper. We would also like to thank Professor Giuseppe Sessa Dead of Department of Orthopedics and Surgery Vittorio Emanuele at Catania University for providing surgical material.

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Correspondence to Giuseppe Musumeci.

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Musumeci, G., Loreto, C., Carnazza, M.L. et al. Characterization of apoptosis in articular cartilage derived from the knee joints of patients with osteoarthritis. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 19, 307–313 (2011).

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  • Histochemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Apoptosis
  • Osteoarthritis