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PPARγ preservation via promoter demethylation alleviates osteoarthritis in mice
  1. Xiaobo Zhu1,
  2. Fang Chen2,
  3. Ke Lu1,
  4. Ai Wei2,
  5. Qing Jiang1,3,
  6. Wangsen Cao2
  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Department of Sports Medicine and Adult Reconstructive Surgery, The Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University School of Medicine, Nanjing, China
  2. 2 Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Molecular Medicine, Nanjing University School of Medicine, Nanjing, China
  3. 3 Model Animal Research Center, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Wangsen Cao, Nanjing University School of Medicine, Nanjing, China; wangsencao{at}; Dr Qing Jiang, The Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University School of Medicine, Nanjing, China; qingj{at}


Objectives Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common degenerative joint disease in aged population and its development is significantly influenced by aberrant epigenetic modifications of numerous OA susceptible genes; however, the precise mechanisms that DNA methylation alterations affect OA pathogenesis remain undefined. This study investigates the critical role of epigenetic PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-gamma) suppression in OA development.

Methods Articular cartilage expressions of PPARγ and bioactive DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) from OA patients and mice incurred by DMM (destabilisation of medial meniscus) were examined. DNA methylation status of both human and mouse PPARγ promoters were assessed by methylated specific PCR and/or bisulfite-sequencing PCR. OA protections by a pharmacological DNA demethylating agent 5Aza (5-Aza-2'-deoxycytidine) were compared between wild type and PPARγ knockout mice.

Results Articular cartilages from both OA patients and DMM mice display substantial PPARγ suppressions likely due to aberrant elevations of DNMT1 and DNMT3a and consequential PPARγ promoter hypermethylation. 5Aza known to inhibit both DNMT1 and DNMT3a reversed the PPARγ promoter hypermethylation, recovered the PPARγ loss and effectively attenuated the cartilage damage in OA mice. 5Aza also inhibited the OA-associated excessive inflammatory cytokines and deficit anti-oxidant enzymes, which were blocked by a specific PPARγ inhibitor in cultured chondrocytes. Further, 5Aza-confered protections against the cartilage damage and the associated abnormalities of OA-susceptible factors were significantly abrogated in PPARγ knockout mice.

Conclusion Epigenetic PPARγ suppression plays a key role in OA development and PPARγ preservation via promoter demethylation possesses promising therapeutic potentials in clinical treatment of OA and the related joint diseases.

  • PPARγ
  • osteoarthritis
  • epigenetics
  • DNA methylation
  • oxidative stress

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  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors XZ conducted the most assays and acquired and analysed data. FC, KL and AW participated in some experiments. QJ and WC conceived the project. WC designed the study, arranged/analysed the results and wrote the manuscript. All authors have approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not reqiured.

  • Ethics approval The animal use and the experimental protocols were reviewed and approved by the Animal Care Committee of Nanjing University in accordance with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee guidelines.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.