Objective: To identify key determinants of the interactive pathophysiologic processes in subchondral bone and cartilage in osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: We performed RNA sequencing on macroscopically preserved and lesional OA subchondral bone from patients in the Research Arthritis and Articular Cartilage study who underwent joint replacement surgery due to OA (n = 24 sample pairs: 6 hips and 18 knees). Unsupervised hierarchical clustering and differential expression analyses were conducted. Results were combined with data on previously identified differentially expressed genes in cartilage (partly overlapping samples) as well as data on recently identified OA risk genes.
Results: We identified 1,569 genes that were significantly differentially expressed between lesional and preserved subchondral bone, including CNTNAP2 (fold change [FC] 2.4, false discovery rate [FDR] 3.36 × 10-5 ) and STMN2 (FC 9.6, FDR 2.36 × 10-3 ). Among these 1,569 genes, 305 were also differentially expressed, and with the same direction of effect, in cartilage, including the recently recognized OA susceptibility genes IL11 and CHADL. Upon differential expression analysis with stratification for joint site, we identified 509 genes that were exclusively differentially expressed in subchondral bone of the knee, including KLF11 and WNT4. These genes that were differentially expressed exclusively in the knee were enriched for involvement in epigenetic processes, characterized by, e.g., HIST1H3J and HIST1H3H.
Conclusion: IL11 and CHADL were among the most consistently differentially expressed genes OA pathophysiology-related genes in both bone and cartilage. As these genes were recently also identified as robust OA risk genes, they classify as attractive therapeutic targets acting on 2 OA-relevant tissues.
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