Background: Mechanical overload applied on the articular cartilage may play an important role in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. However, the mechanism of chondrocyte mechanotransduction is not fully understood. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of compressive mechanical stress on interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R) and matrix-degrading enzyme expression by three-dimensional (3D) cultured ATDC5 cells. In addition, the implications of transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) channel regulation in promoting effects of compressive mechanical loading were elucidated. Methods: ATDC5 cells were cultured in alginate beads with the growth medium containing insulin-transferrin-selenium and BMP-2 for 6 days. The cultured cell pellet was seeded in collagen scaffolds to produce 3D-cultured constructs. Cyclic compressive loading was applied on the 3D-cultured constructs at 0.5 Hz for 3 h. The mRNA expressions of a disintegrin and metalloproteinases with thrombospondin motifs 4 (ADAMTS4) and IL-1R were determined with or without compressive loading, and effects of TRPV4 agonist/antagonist on mRNA expressions were examined. Immunoreactivities of reactive oxygen species (ROS), TRPV4 and IL-1R were assessed in 3D-cultured ATDC5 cells. Results: In 3D-cultured ATDC5 cells, ROS was induced by cyclic compressive loading stress. The mRNA expression levels of ADAMTS4 and IL-1R were increased by cyclic compressive loading, which was mostly prevented by pyrollidine dithiocarbamate. Small amounts of IL-1β upregulated ADAMTS4 and IL-1R mRNA expressions only when combined with compressive loading. TRPV4 agonist suppressed ADAMTS4 and IL-1R mRNA levels induced by the compressive loading, whereas TRPV4 antagonist enhanced these levels. Immunoreactivities to TRPV4 and IL-1R significantly increased in constructs with cyclic compressive loading. Conclusion: Cyclic compressive loading induced mRNA expressions of ADAMTS4 and IL-1R through reactive oxygen species. TRPV4 regulated these mRNA expressions, but excessive compressive loading may impair TRPV4 regulation. These findings suggested that TRPV4 regulates the expression level of IL-1R and subsequent IL-1 signaling induced by cyclic compressive loading and participates in cartilage homeostasis.
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