Introduction: Oestrogen depletion may influence onset and/or progression of osteoarthritis. We investigated in an ovariectomized mouse model the impact of oestrogen loss and oestrogen supplementation on articular cartilage and subchondral bone in tibia and patella, and assessed bone changes in osteoarthritis development.Methods: C3H/HeJ mice were divided into four groups: sham-operated, oestrogen depletion by ovariectomy (OVX), OVX with estradiol supplementation (OVX+E) and OVX with bisphosphonate (OVX+BP). Each mouse had one knee injected with low-dose iodoacetate (IA), and the contralateral knee was injected with saline. Cartilage was analysed histologically 12 weeks postsurgery; bone changes were monitored over time using in vivo micro-computed tomography.Results: In tibiae, OVX alone failed to induce cartilage damage, but OVX and IA combination significantly induced cartilage damage. In patellae, OVX alone induced significant cartilage damage, which was enhanced by IA. In both tibiae and patellae, OVX in combination with IA significantly decreased subchondral cortical thickness in an additive manner. OVX+E and OVX+BP inhibited tibial and patellar subchondral cortical thinning, inhibited patellar and tended to diminish tibial cartilage damage. In patellae, IA interacted with BP, leading to increased subchondral cortical and trabecular bone.Conclusions: This study demonstrates the significance of oestrogen for articular cartilage and subchondral bone and maintenance of healthy joints, supporting an etiological role for altered oestrogen signaling in osteoarthritis either by directly affecting cartilage or increasing susceptibility for an osteoarthritis trigger. The data strongly support the concept of involvement of subchondral bone plate in osteoarthritis.

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Arthritis Research & Therapy
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Sniekers, Y., Weinans, H., van Osch, G., & van Leeuwen, H. (2010). Oestrogen is important for maintenance of cartilage and subchondral bone in a murine model of knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 12(5), 1–12. doi:10.1186/ar3148