Contribution of the interleukin-6/STAT-3 signaling pathway to chondrogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells

Masahiro Kondo, Kunihiro Yamaoka, Kei Sakata, Koshiro Sonomoto, Lin Lin, Kazuhisa Nakano, Yoshiya Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells that can differentiate into chondrocytes. Articular cartilage contains MSC-like chondroprogenitor cells, which suggests their involvement in the maintenance of cartilage homeostasis by a self-repair mechanism. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a cytokine with a wide range of physiologic functions, which are produced by MSCs in a steady manner and in large quantities. The purpose of this study was to investigate the involvement of IL-6 signaling in MSC differentiation into chondrocytes. Methods Human bone marrow-derived MSCs were cultured using a pellet culture system in medium containing transforming growth factor β3. Chondrogenic differentiation was detected by cartilage matrix accumulation and chondrogenic marker gene expression. Results IL-6 was detected at a high concentration in culture supernatants during chondrogenic differentiation. The expression of the IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) was significantly increased, accompanied by markedly increased phosphorylation and expression of STAT-3. Addition of IL-6 and soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R) to the chondrogenic culture resulted in concentration-dependent increases in cartilage matrix accumulation and cartilage marker gene expression (type II collagen/aggrecan/type X collagen). Phosphorylation of the master transcription factor SOX9 was enhanced upon addition of IL-6 and sIL-6R. STAT-3 knockdown suppressed chondrogenic differentiation. IL-6 and the MSC markers CD166 and nestin were colocalized in macroscopically normal human cartilage taken from the lateral femoral compartment of knees with medial tibiofemoral osteoarthritis. Conclusion During differentiation of human MSCs into chondrocytes, the activation of IL-6/STAT-3 signaling positively regulated chondrogenic differentiation. The presence of IL-6 around MSC-like cells in the cartilage tissue was identified, suggesting that IL-6 contributes to homeostasis and cartilage self-repair by promoting chondrogenic differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1250-1260
Number of pages11
JournalArthritis and Rheumatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015 May 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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