Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) signaling plays a complex tissue‐specific and nonlinear role in osteoarthritis (OA). This study was conducted to determine the osteocytic contributions of TGFβ signaling to OA.
To identify the role of osteocytic TGFβ signaling in joint homeostasis, we used 16‐week‐old male mice (n = 9–11 per group) and female mice (n = 7–11 per group) with an osteocyte‐intrinsic ablation of TGFβ receptor type II (TβRIIocy−/−mice) and assessed defects in cartilage degeneration, subchondral bone plate (SBP) thickness, and SBP sclerostin expression. To further investigate these mechanisms in 16‐week‐old male mice, we perturbed joint homeostasis by subjecting 8‐week‐old mice to medial meniscal/ligamentous injury (MLI), which preferentially disrupts the mechanical environment of the medial joint to induce OA.
In all contexts, independent of sex, genotype, or medial or lateral joint compartment, increased SBP thickness and SBP sclerostin expression were spatially associated with cartilage degeneration. Male TβRIIocy−/−mice, but not female TβRIIocy−/−mice, had increased cartilage degeneration, increased SBP thickness, and higher levels of SBP sclerostin compared with control mice (all
Our results provide new evidence that osteocytic TGFβ signaling is required for a mechanosensitive response to injury, and that osteocytes control SBP homeostasis to maintain cartilage health, identifying osteocytic TGFβ signaling as a novel therapeutic target for OA.