OBJECTIVE--To examine the distribution of insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptors and the biological response to IGF-1 stimulation in articular cartilage of normal mouse knee joints and arthritic joints taken at various stages of experimentally induced arthritis. METHODS--In situ IGF-1 receptor expression and responsiveness to IGF-1 stimulation were examined in murine articular cartilage at different phases in two models of experimentally induced arthritis. IGF-1 receptor expression was visualised in joint sections with the use of anti-IGF-1 receptor antibodies and quantified by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Chondrocyte proteoglycan (PG) synthesis was measured by incorporation of 35S-sulphate. RESULTS--In control cartilage, the majority of IGF-1 receptors were found on chondrocytes localised in the middle and deeper zones of the cartilage, whereas receptor expression in surface zone chondrocytes was very low. During culture of normal articular cartilage, IGF-1 was able to maintain chondrocyte PG synthesis at the in vivo level. Concurrently with the development of arthritis, cartilage lost its capacity to react to IGF-1, but IGF-1 stimulation recovered when the inflammatory response waned. Shortly after induction of arthritis, IGF-1 receptor expression initially declined, but it had returned to normal levels by day 1 and remained increased thereafter. CONCLUSION--The distribution of IGF-1 receptor expression in the different zones of normal articular cartilage reflects IGF-1 stimulation and metabolic activity of chondrocytes in these layers. This correlation is disturbed in arthritic cartilage, suggesting inadequate or overruled signalling.
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