Osteoarthritis (OA) is the fastest growing global health problem, with a total joint replacement being the only effective treatment for patients with end stage OA. Many groups are examining the use of bone marrow or adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to repair cartilage, or modulate inflammation to promote healing, however, little efficacy in promoting cartilage repair, or reducing patient symptoms over temporary treatments such as micro-fracture has been observed. There is a growing body of literature demonstrating that MSCs derived from the synovial lining of the joint are superior in terms of chondrogenic differentiation and while improvements in clinical outcome measures have been observed with synovial MSCs, results from clinical studies are still highly variable.
Based on our results, we believe this variability in clinical studies with MSCs results in part from the isolation, expansion and re-injection of distinct MSCs subtypes in normal vs. OA tissues, each with differing regenerating potential. However, it remains unknown if this heterogeneity is natural (e.g. multiple MSC subtypes present) or if MSCs are influenced by factors in vivo (disease state/stage). Therefore, in this study, we undertook an ‘omics’ screening approach on MSCs from normal and OA knee synovial tissue. Specifically, we characterized their global proteome and genomic expression patterns to determine if multiple MSC from normal and OA joints are distinct at the protein/gene expression level and/if so, what proteins/genes are differentially expressed between MSCs derived from normal and OA synovial tissue.
Synovium tissue was collected from OA patients undergoing joint replacement and normal cadaveric knees. The in vitro adipogenic, chondrogenic and osteogenic differentiation potential of the MSCs was analyzed via qPCR and histology. Fully characterized MSC populations where then analyzed through an unbiased shotgun proteomics, and microarray analysis.
Synovial MSCs isolated from both OA and normal knees demonstrated similar multipotent differentiation capacity. Likewise, both OA and normal MSCs display the typical MSCs cell surface marker profile in vitro (CD90+, CD44+, CD73+, CD105+).
Using shotgun proteomics, 7720 unique peptides corresponding to 2183 proteins were identified and quantified between normal and OA MSCs. Of these 2183 proteins, 994 were equally expressed in normal and OA, MSCs, 324 were upregulated in OA MSCs (with 50 proteins exclusively expressed in OA MSCs), 630 proteins were upregulated in normal MSCs (with 16 proteins exclusively expressed in normal MSCs). Microarray analysis of normal and OA MSCs demonstrated a similar result in where, 967 genes were differentially expressed between normal and OA MSCs, with 423 genes upregulated in OA, and 544 genes upregulated in normal MSCs.
In this project, we have demonstrated that although normal and OA synovial derived MSCs demonstrate similar multipotent differentiation potential and cell surface markers expression, these cells demonstrated significant differences at the molecular level (protein and gene expression). Further research is required to determine if these differences influence functional differences in vitro and/or in vivo and what drives this dramatic change in the regulatory pathways within normal vs. OA synovial MSCs.