CCL2 induces articular chondrocyte MMP expression through ERK and p38 signaling pathways

Helen Willcockson, Huseyin Ozkan, Susan Chubinskaya, Richard F. Loeser, Lara Longobardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: In previous studies, we determined an association between increased serum and articular cartilage levels of CCL2 with osteoarthritis (OA) progression, cartilage damage and increased MMP13 in cartilage. Here we analyzed CCL2 downstream signaling mediators that lead to gene expression of cartilage catabolic markers, in healthy and OA human articular chondrocytes. Design: Human articular chondrocytes obtained from healthy or OA subjects were treated with or without recombinant human CCL2; cell lysates or mRNA were collected for immunoblotting or qRT-PCR. For pathway analysis, chondrocytes were pre-incubated with an inhibitor of CCR2 (the unique CCL2 receptor), ERK inhibitor or p38 inhibitor prior to CCL2 treatment. Results: CCL2 treatment of both healthy and OA chondrocytes activated ERK and p38 via CCR2. In healthy chondrocytes, short (6h) and prolonged (24–72h) CCL2 treatments led to Ccr2, Mmp-1, Mmp-3, Mmp-13 and Timp1 upregulation. In OA chondrocytes, CCL2 induced expression of Ccr2, Mmp-1 and Mmp-3, but not Mmp1 and Timp1, and only following longer treatments (72h). In both healthy and OA chondrocytes, the CCL2-mediated upregulation of Ccr2 and cartilage catabolic markers was mediated by ERK and p38 signaling. Conclusions: The triggering of the CCL2/CCR2 axis in articular chondrocytes activates specific MAPK pathways leading to gene expression of cartilage degrading enzymes. However, some differences in the response to CCL2 stimulation are detected in healthy vs OA chondrocytes with respect to the number of activated genes and to the time of exposure to CCL2, suggesting that CCL2 action in articular cartilage may be dependent on OA stage and severity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100136
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cartilage
  • Cell signaling
  • Chemokines
  • Osteoarthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biomedical Engineering


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