ATP in the mechanotransduction pathway of normal human chondrocytes

S J Millward-Sadler, M O Wright, P W Flatman, D M Salter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extracellular nucleotides have been shown to have diverse effects on chondrocyte function, generally acting via P2 purinoceptors. We have previously shown that mechanical stimulation at 0.33 Hz of normal human chondrocyte cultures causes cellular hyperpolarisation, while chondrocytes derived from osteoarthritic (OA) cartilage depolarise. Experiments have been undertaken to establish whether ATP is involved in the response of the chondrocyte to mechanical stimulation. Chondrocytes, isolated from normal and OA cartilage obtained, with consent, from human knee joints following surgery, were cultured in non-confluent monolayer. Cells were mechanically stimulated at 0.33 Hz for 20 minutes at 37 degrees C in the presence or absence of inhibitors of ATP signalling, or were stimulated by the addition of exogenous ATP or derivatives, and electrophysiological measurements recorded. Samples of medium bathing the cells were collected before and after mechanical stimulation, and the concentration of ATP in the cell medium was measured. Total RNA was extracted from cultured chondrocytes, reverse-transcribed and used for RT-PCR with primers specific for P2Y2 purinoceptors. ATP, UTP 2-methylthioadenosine and alphabeta-methylene adenosine 5'-triphosphate all induced a hyperpolarisation response in normal human articular chondrocytes. No significant change was observed in the membrane potentials of chondrocytes isolated from OA cartilage following the addition of these nucleotides to the medium. In normal chondrocytes, the hyperpolarisation induced by ATP was blocked by the presence of apamin, indicating the involvement of small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels. Following mechanical stimulation of normal chondrocytes, an increase was observed in ATP concentration in the cell culture medium bathing the cells. The presence within the culture medium of suramin or pyridoxal-phosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulphonic acid (PPADS) prior to and during the period of mechanical stimulation abolished the hyperpolarisation response in normal chondrocytes. The presence of mRNA for P2Y2 purinoceptors was demonstrated in both normal and OA chondrocytes by RT-PCR. These results suggest that ATP has a role in the response of normal chondrocytes to mechanical stimulation, via P2Y2 purinoceptors. This response appears to be different in chondrocytes derived from OA cartilage, and may be important in the progression of this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-75
Number of pages9
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Apamin
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Cell Polarity
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Osteoarthritis
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2Y2
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stress, Mechanical


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