Depletion of chondrocyte primary cilia reduces the compressive modulus of articular cartilage.
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Primary cilia are slender, microtubule based structures found in the majority of cell types with one cilium per cell. In articular cartilage, primary cilia are required for chondrocyte mechanotransduction and the development of healthy tissue. Loss of primary cilia in Col2aCre;ift88(fl/fl) transgenic mice results in up-regulation of osteoarthritic (OA) markers and development of OA like cartilage with greater thickness and reduced mechanical stiffness. However no previous studies have examined whether loss of primary cilia influences the intrinsic mechanical properties of articular cartilage matrix in the form of the modulus or just the structural properties of the tissue. The present study describes a modified analytical model to derive the viscoelastic moduli based on previous experimental indentation data. Results show that the increased thickness of the articular cartilage in the Col2aCre;ift88(fl/fl) transgenic mice is associated with a reduction in both the instantaneous and equilibrium moduli at indentation strains of greater than 20%. This reveals that the loss of primary cilia causes a significant reduction in the mechanical properties of cartilage particularly in the deeper zones and possibly the underlying bone. This is consistent with histological analysis and confirms the importance of primary cilia in the development of a mechanically functional articular cartilage.