Chondrocyte deformation and local tissue strain in articular cartilage: a confocal microscopy study.
It is well accepted that mechanical forces can modulate the metabolic activity of chondrocytes, although the specific mechanisms of mechanical signal transduction in articular cartilage are still unknown. One proposed pathway through which chondrocytes may perceive changes in their mechanical environment is directly through cellular deformation. An important step toward understanding the role of chondrocyte deformation in signal transduction is to determine the changes in the shape and volume of chondrocytes during applied compression of the tissue. Recently, a technique was developed for quantitative morphometry of viable chondrocytes within the extracellular matrix using three-dimensional confocal scanning laser microscopy. In the present study, this method was used to quantify changes in chondrocyte morphology and local tissue deformation in the surface, middle, and deep zones in explants of canine articular cartilage subjected to physiological levels of matrix deformation. The results indicated that at 15% surface-to-surface equilibrium strain in the tissue, a similar magnitude of local tissue strain occurs in the middle and deep zones. In the surface zone, local strains of 19% were observed, indicating that the compressive stiffness of the surface zone is significantly less than that of the middle and deep zones. With this degree of tissue deformation, significant decreases in cellular height of 26, 19, and 20% and in cell volume of 22, 16, and 17% were observed in the surface, middle, and deep zones, respectively. The deformation of chondrocytes in the surface zone was anisotropic, with significant lateral expansion occurring in the direction perpendicular to the local split-line pattern. When compression was removed, there was complete recovery of cellular morphology in all cases. These observations support the hypothesis that deformation of chondrocytes or a change in their volume may occur during in vivo joint loading and may have a role in the mechanical signal transduction pathway of articular cartilage.
Guilak, F; Ratcliffe, A; Mow, VC
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