DOI: 10.1302/1358-992x.2024.1.070 ISSN: 1358-992X


E.V. Ely, K.H. Collins, K. Lenz, S. Paradi, W. Liedtke, Y. Chen, F. Guilak

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the leading cause of pain and disability worldwide and is characterized by the degenerative changes of articular cartilage. Joint loading is required for cartilage maintenance; however, hyper-physiologic loading is a risk factor for OA. Mechanosensitive ion channels Piezo1 and Piezo2 synergistically transduce hyper-physiologic compression of chondrocytes, leading to chondrocyte death and onset of OA. This injury response is inhibited by Piezo channel loss of function, however the mechanistic role of Piezo channels in vivo is unknown. We examined the hypothesis that deletion of Piezo in chondrocytes will protect mice from joint damage and pain-related behaviors following a surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM), investigating a key mechanistic and mechanobiological role of these channels in the pathogenesis of OA.

Aggrecan-Cre Piezo1 and Piezo1/2 knockout mice ((Agc)1-CREERT2;Piezo1fl/flPiezo2fl/fl) were generated and given a 5-day Tamoxifen regimen at 12-weeks of age (n=6–12/group/sex). Cre-negative mice served as controls. At 16-weeks, mice received DMM surgery on the left knee. 12-weeks following DMM prior to sacrifice, activity and hyperalgesia were measured using spontaneous running wheels and a small animal algometer. Structural changes in bone, cartilage, and synovium were characterized using microCT, histology, and Modified Mankin Score criteria.

Knockout of Piezo1/2 channels was chondroprotective in both sexes following DMM surgery as demonstrated by reduced Modified Mankin Score compared to control animals. Piezo1 KO was chondroprotective in only female mice, indicating a sexually dimorphic response. Piezo1 and Piezo1/2 KO was protective against pain in male mice, while females displayed no differences compared to controls. No changes were observed in bone morphology.

Chondrocyte-specific Piezo1/2 knockout protects the knee joint from structural damage, hyperalgesia and functional deficits in a surgical model of PTOA in male and female mice, illustrating the importance of Piezo channels in response to injury in vivo. Future work aims to interrogate potential sexually dimorphic responses to cartilage damage and investigating Piezo2 KO mice.

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