Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) is a protein present in the cartilage matrix and is expressed more abundantly in osteoarthritis cartilage than in healthy cartilage. The present study was designed to investigate the effect of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) on COMP deposition and the influence of COMP on collagen biochemistry in a long-term 3-dimensional culture. Bovine chondrocytes in alginate beads were cultured with or without 25 ng/mL TGFβ2 for 21 or 35 days. COMP was overexpressed in bovine chondrocytes using lentiviral transfection. COMP gene expression, COMP protein production, collagen and proteoglycan deposition, and collagen fibril thickness were determined. Addition of TGFβ2 resulted in more COMP mRNA and protein than the control condition without growth factors. Lentiviral transduction with COMP resulted in elevated gene expression of COMP and increased COMP levels in the alginate bead and culture medium compared to untransfected cells. Overexpression of COMP did not affect the deposition of collagen, collagen cross-linking, proteoglycan deposition, or the mechanical properties. Stimulating COMP production by either TGFβ2 or lentivirus resulted in collagen fibrils with a smaller diameter. Taken together, COMP deposition can be modulated in cartilage matrix production by the addition of growth factors or by overexpression of COMP. Inducing COMP protein expression resulted in collagen fibrils with a smaller diameter. Because it has been demonstrated that the collagen fibril diameter is associated with mechanical functioning of the matrix, modulating COMP levels should be taken into account in cartilage regeneration strategies.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Bastiaansen-Jenniskens, Y., de Bart, A., Koevoet, W., Jansen, K., Verhaar, J., van Osch, G., & DeGroot, J. (2010). Elevated levels of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein during in vitro cartilage matrix generation decrease collagen fibril diameter. Cartilage, 1(3), 200–210. doi:10.1177/1947603510361238