Background: Intra-articular adipose tissues (IAATs) are involved in osteoarthritis (OA) pathophysiology. We hypothesize that mesenchymal cells residing in IAATs may account for the specific inflammatory and metabolic patterns in OA patients.
Methods: Adipocyte precursors (preadipocytes and dedifferentiated fat cells (DFATc)) from IAATs (infrapatellar and suprapatellar fat pads) and autologous subcutaneous adipose tissues (SCATs) were isolated from knee OA patients. The ability of these precursors to differentiate into adipocytes was assessed by oil red O staining after 14 days of culture in adipogenic medium. The gene expression of adipocyte-related transcription factors (C/EBP-alpha and PPAR-gamma) and development-related factors (EN1 and SFRP2) were analyzed. The inflammatory pattern was assessed by RT-qPCR and ELISA (interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-8, Cox2, and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)) after a 24-h stimulation by IL-1beta (1 ng/mL) and by conditioned medium from OA synovium.
Results: IAAT preadipocytes displayed a significantly higher ability to differentiate into adipocytes and expressed significantly more C/EBP-alpha mRNA than SCAT preadipocytes. IAAT preadipocytes expressed significantly less EN-1 and SFRP2 mRNA than SCAT preadipocytes. Unstimulated IAAT preadipocytes displayed a less inflammatory pattern (IL-6, IL-8, and Cox2/PGE2) than SCAT preadipocytes. In contrast, the response of IAAT preadipocytes to an inflammatory stimulus (IL-1beta and conditioned media of OA synovium) was exacerbated compared to that of SCAT preadipocytes. Similar results were obtained with DFATc.
Conclusion: IAAT adipocyte precursors from OA patients have a specific phenotype, which may account for the unique phenotype of OA IAATs. The exacerbated response of IAAT preadipocytes to inflammatory stimulation may contribute to OA pathophysiology.