Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.283, No.5, 1105-1110, 2001
Effects of ceramide on aggrecanase activity in rabbit articular cartilage
Ceramide participates in signal transduction of IL-1 and TNF, two cytokines likely involved in cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis. We previously showed that ceramide stimulates proteoglycan degradation, mRNA expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, -3, and -13, and pro-MMP-3 production in rabbit cartilage. Since aggrecan, the main cartilage proteoglycan, can be cleaved by metalloproteinases both of MMP and aggrecanase type, the aim of this study was to determine if ceramide stimulates aggrecanase action and, if that is the case, in which measure aggrecanase mediates the degradative effect of ceramide. To this end, antibodies were used against the C terminal aggrecan neoepitopes generated by aggrecanases (NITEGE(373)) and MMPs (DIPEN341). Ceramide C-2 at 10(-5) to 10(-4) M dose-dependently increased NITEGE signal, without changing that of DIPEN, in cultured explants of rabbit cartilage. The effects of 10(-4) M C, on NITEGE signal and proteoglycan degradation were similarly antagonized by the metalloproteinase inhibitor batimastat, with return to the basal level at 10(-6) M. These results show that, similarly to IL-1 and TNF, ceramide-induced aggrecan degradation is mainly due to aggrecanases, That no increase of MMP activity was detected, despite stimulation of MMP expression, was probably due to lack of proenzyme conversion to mature form, since addition of a MMP activator to C-2-treated cartilage increased both DIPEN signal and proteoglycan degradation. These findings support the hypothesis that cytokine-induced ceramide could play a mediatory role in situations of increased degradation of cartilage matrix.