Abstract Effects of oxygen tension (pO(2)) and pH on gene and protein expression and metabolic activity of human chondrocytes were independently assessed. Chondrocytes were cultured under a range of pH (6.4-7.4) and different pO(2) (5 and 20%) during 5 days in a bioreactor. Effects on gene expression, DNA content, protein expression, and metabolic activity were determined. Linear regression analysis showed that gene expression of type I collagen (COL1), SOX9, and VEGF is significantly lower at acidic pH, while expression of aggrecan, type II collagen, and HIF1A is pH-independent. Higher protein levels of VEGF were found under low pO(2). Acidic pH severely lowered VEGF release into medium, glucose consumption, and lactate production. Extracellular pH proved to more potently influence cell function than oxygen tension, the latter showing down-regulation of COL1 gene expression and up-regulation of VEGF protein under hypoxia. Hypoxic culture inhibits COL1 mRNA expression pH-dependently, while expression of SOX9 is largely hypoxia independent, but pH dependent. Expression of HIF1A and VEGF revealed divergent pH dependencies. Subtle fluctuations in extracellular pH and oxygen tension clearly influence chondrocyte metabolism and marker expression. Sophisticated pH and oxygen control not only allows study of (patho)physiological changes, but also opens new venues in cartilage tissue engineering.

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Keywords Aggrecans/genetics/metabolism, Bioreactors, Cell Hypoxia/*physiology, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes/chemistry/*metabolism, Collagen Type I/genetics/metabolism, Collagen Type II/genetics/metabolism, Culture Media, Conditioned/chemistry/metabolism, DNA/analysis, Gene Expression Regulation/physiology, Gene Expression/physiology, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit/genetics/metabolism, Oxygen/*metabolism, Proteins/genetics/*metabolism, RNA, Messenger/metabolism, SOX9 Transcription Factor/genetics/metabolism, Up-Regulation, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A/genetics/metabolism
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/jor.20994, hdl.handle.net/1765/20705
Journal Journal of Orthopaedic Research: a journal for musculoskeletal investigation
Das, R.H.J, van Osch, G.J.V.M, Kreukniet, M, Oostra, J, Weinans, H.H, & Jahr, H. (2010). Effects of individual control of pH and hypoxia in chondrocyte culture. Journal of Orthopaedic Research: a journal for musculoskeletal investigation, 28(4), 537–545. doi:10.1002/jor.20994