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Lifelong voluntary joint loading increases osteoarthritis in mice housing a deletion mutation in type II procollagen gene, and slightly also in non-transgenic mice
  1. T Lapveteläinen1,
  2. M M Hyttinen1,
  3. A-M Säämänen2,
  4. T Långsjö1,
  5. J Sahlman1,
  6. S Felszeghy3,
  7. E Vuorio2,
  8. H J Helminen3
  1. 1Department of Anatomy, University of Kuopio, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
  2. 2Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
  3. 3Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Debrecen University, Medical School, Debrecen, Hungary
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr H J Helminen, Department of Anatomy, University of Kuopio, 70211 Kuopio, Finland;


Objectives: To investigate the effects of voluntary running on the incidence and severity of osteoarthritis (OA) and associated changes in cartilage matrix and subchondral bone in a transgenic Del1 mouse model for OA.

Methods: Del1 mice and their non-transgenic littermate controls were housed from the age of 5–6 weeks to 15 months in individual cages with running wheels. The running activity of each mouse was monitored for the entire 12 month period. Additional Del1 and control mice were housed in individual cages without running wheels. At the end of the experiment the severity of OA was evaluated by light microscopy, and the articular cartilage matrix changes by digital densitometry and quantitative polarised light microscopy.

Results: Lifelong voluntary running increased the incidence and severity of OA significantly in Del1 mice (transgenic runners), and slightly also in non-transgenic runners. Severe OA changes increased from 39% in transgenic non-runners to 90% in transgenic runners (p=0.006) in lateral tibial condyles, and from 24% to 80% (p=0.013) in lateral femoral condyles, respectively. The proteoglycan content of articular cartilage was reduced in transgenic runners in comparison with transgenic non-runners (p=0.0167), but a similar effect was not seen in non-transgenic runners compared with non-transgenic non-runners. No attributable differences were seen in the collagen network of articular cartilage or in the subchondral bone between any of the groups.

Conclusion: The Del1 mutation has earlier been shown to disturb the assembly of the cartilage collagen network and thereby increase the incidence and severity of OA with age. In this study, voluntary running was shown to increase further cartilage damage in the lateral compartments of the knee. This suggests that articular cartilage in Del1 mice is less resistant to physical loading than in control mice. Despite severe OA lesions in the knee joint at the age of 15 months, Del1 mice continued to run voluntarily 2–3 km every night.

  • inbred C57BL mice
  • transgenic mice
  • osteoarthritis
  • running
  • AIOD, area integrated optical density
  • AIR, area integrated retardation
  • DD, digital densitometry
  • IL, interleukin
  • OA, osteoarthritis
  • PG, proteoglycan
  • PLM, polarised light microscopy

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  • T Lapveteläinen and M M Hyttinen contributed equally to this study.