Widespread regulation of gene expression by glucocorticoids in chondrocytes from patients with osteoarthritis as determined by RNA-Seq

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Background: Intra-articular glucocorticoid (GC) injections are widely used as a symptomatic treatment for osteoarthritis (OA). However, there are also concerns about their potentially harmful effects, and their detailed effects on chondrocyte phenotype remain poorly understood. Methods: We studied the effects of dexamethasone on gene expression in OA chondrocytes with RNA-Seq. Chondrocytes were isolated from the cartilage from OA patients undergoing knee replacement surgery and cultured with or without dexamethasone for 24 h. Total RNA was isolated and sequenced, and functional analysis was performed against the Gene Ontology (GO) database. Results for selected genes were confirmed with RT-PCR. We also investigated genes linked to OA in recent genome-wide expression analysis (GWEA) studies. Results: Dexamethasone increased the expression of 480 and reduced that of 755 genes with a fold change (FC) 2.0 or greater. Several genes associated with inflammation and cartilage anabolism/catabolism as well as lipid and carbohydrate metabolism were among the most strongly affected genes. In the GO analysis, genes involved in the extracellular matrix organization, cell proliferation and adhesion, inflammation, and collagen synthesis were enriched among the significantly affected genes. In network analysis, NGF, PI3KR1, and VCAM1 were identified as central genes among those most strongly affected by dexamethasone. Conclusions: This is the first study investigating the genome-wide effects of GCs on the gene expression in OA chondrocytes. In addition to clear anti-inflammatory and anticatabolic effects, GCs affect lipid and glucose metabolism in chondrocytes, an observation that might be particularly important in the metabolic phenotype of OA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number271
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Cartilage
  • Chondrocyte
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Osteoarthritis
  • RNA-Seq

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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