Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 32638534
Link to DOI – 10.1002/art.41429
Arthritis Rheumatol 2020 12; 72(12): 2072-2082
The non-neuronal cholinergic system represents non-neuronal cells that have the biochemical machinery to synthetize de novo and/or respond to acetylcholine (ACh). We undertook this study to investigate this biochemical machinery in chondrocytes and its involvement in osteoarthritis (OA).Expression of the biochemical machinery for ACh metabolism and nicotinic ACh receptors (nAChR), particularly α7-nAChR, in human OA and murine chondrocytes was determined by polymerase chain reaction and ligand-binding. We investigated the messenger RNA expression of the human duplicate α7-nACh subunit, called CHRFAM7A, which is responsible for truncated α7-nAChR. We assessed the effect of nAChR on chondrocytes activated by interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and the involvement of α7-nAChR using chondrocytes from wild-type (WT) and α7-deficient Chrna7-/- mice. The role of α7-nAChR in OA was explored after medial meniscectomy in WT and Chrna7-/- mice.Human and murine chondrocytes express the biochemical partners of the non-neuronal cholinergic system and a functional α7-nAChR at their cell surface (n = 5 experiments with 5 samples each). The expression of CHRFAM7A in human OA chondrocytes (n = 23 samples) correlated positively with matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3) (r = 0.38, P < 0.05) and MMP-13 (r = 0.48, P < 0.05) expression. Nicotine decreased the IL-1β-induced IL-6 and MMP expression, in a dose-dependent manner, in WT chondrocytes but not in Chrna7-/- chondrocytes. Chrna7-/- mice that underwent meniscectomy (n = 7) displayed more severe OA cartilage damage (mean ± SD Osteoarthritis Research Society International [OARSI] score 4.46 ± 1.09) compared to WT mice that underwent meniscectomy (n = 9) (mean ± SD OARSI score 3.05 ± 0.9; P < 0.05).The non-neuronal cholinergic system is functionally expressed in chondrocytes. Stimulation of nAChR induces antiinflammatory and anticatabolic activity through α7-nAChR, but the anticatabolic activity may be mitigated by truncated α7-nAChR in human chondrocytes. In vivo experiments strongly suggest that α7-nAChR has a protective role in OA.