Estrogen prevents articular cartilage destruction in a mouse model of AMPK deficiency via ERK-mTOR pathway 

Ann Transl Med. 2019 Jul;7(14):336. doi: 10.21037/atm.2019.06.77.

Estrogen prevents articular cartilage destruction in a mouse model of AMPK deficiency via ERK-mTOR pathway.

Ge Y1,2Zhou S1,2Li Y1,2Wang Z1,2Chen S2Xia T3Shen J3Teng H2Jiang Q1,2.

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To investigate the mechanism underlying the chondroprotective effect of estrogen in AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) deficiency mice.


Female cartilage-specific AMPKα double knockout (AMPKα cDKO) mice were generated and subjected to ovariectomy (OVX). The model of osteoarthritis (OA) was induced by destabilization of medial meniscus (DMM). Histopathological changes were evaluated by using OARSI scoring systems. Autophagy changes were analyzed by immunofluorescence staining. Human chondrocytes were subjected to mechanical stress to mimic OA development. and incubated in presence of or absence of 17β-estradiol or/and compound C (AMPK inhibitor) or/and U0126 (ERK inhibitor). The expression levels of ERK1/2 phosphorylation, p70S6K phosphorylation and light chain 3 (LC3) were detected by Western blot.


Compared with in OVX-sham AMPKα cDKO and OVX-sham WT mice, DMM-induced OA is more severe, and significantly low level of LC3 was observed in articular cartilage in OVX AMPK cDKO mice. Both mechanical stress and compound C were shown to induce an increase in phosphorylation of p70S6K, respectively. 17β-estradiol stimulation led to a reduction in the basal level of p70S6K phosphorylation as well as in the compound C or mechanical stress-induced level of p70S6K phosphorylation. 17β-estradiol stimulation not only led to an increase in LC3 conversion but also overrode the inhibitory effect of compound C on LC3 conversion. The effects of 17β-estradiol were abrogated by blocking ERK signaling pathway.


Our findings suggest that estrogen can protect articular cartilage from damage during OA development by promoting chondrocyte autophagy via ERK-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling, and give new insight into the mechanism of the chondroprotective effect of estrogen.


AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK); Estrogen; chondrocytes; mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR); osteoarthritis (OA)

PMID: 31475206 PMCID: PMC6694256 DOI: 10.21037/atm.2019.06.77

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