Extracellular superoxide dismutase and oxidant damage in osteoarthritis




To use human cartilage samples and a mouse model of osteoarthritis (OA) to determine whether extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD) is a constituent of cartilage and to evaluate whether there is a relationship between EC-SOD deficiency and OA.


Samples of human cartilage were obtained from femoral heads at the time of joint replacement surgery for OA or femoral neck fracture. Samples of mouse tibial cartilage obtained from STR/ort mice and CBA control mice were compared at 5, 15, and 35 weeks of age. EC-SOD was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry techniques. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction was used to measure messenger RNA for EC-SOD and for endothelial cell, neuronal, and inducible nitric oxide synthases. Nitrotyrosine formation was assayed by Western blotting in mouse cartilage and by fluorescence immunohistochemistry in human cartilage.


Human articular cartilage contained large amounts of EC-SOD (mean ± SEM 18.8 ± 3.8 ng/gm wet weight of cartilage). Cartilage from patients with OA had an ∼4-fold lower level of EC-SOD compared with cartilage from patients with hip fracture. Young STR/ort mice had decreased levels of EC-SOD in tibial cartilage before histologic evidence of disease occurred, as well as significantly more nitrotyrosine formation at all ages studied.


EC-SOD, the major scavenger of reactive oxygen species in extracellular spaces, is decreased in humans with OA and in an animal model of OA. Our findings suggest that inadequate control of reactive oxygen species plays a role in the pathophysiology of OA.