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Our previous study reported that prenatal caffeine exposure (PCE) could induce chondrodysplasia and increase the susceptibility to osteoarthritis in offspring rats. However, the potential mechanisms and initiating factors remain unknown. This study aims to investigate whether 11β-HSD2, a glucocorticoid-metabolizing enzyme, is involved in the susceptibility of osteoarthritis induced by PCE and to further explore its potential mechanisms and initiating factors. Firstly, we found that PCE reduced cartilage matrix synthesis (aggrecan/Col2a1 expression) in male adult offspring rats and exhibited an osteoarthritis phenotype following chronic stress, which was associated with persistently reduced H3K9ac and H3K27ac levels at the promoter of 11β-HSD2 as well as its expression in the cartilage from fetus to adulthood. The expression of 11β-HSD2, aggrecan and Col2a1 were all decreased by corticosterone in the fetal chondrocytes, while overexpression of 11β-HSD2 could partially alleviate the decrease of matrix synthesis induced by corticosterone in vitro. Furthermore, the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activated by glucocorticoids directly bonded to the promoter region of 11β-HSD2 to inhibit its expression. Meanwhile, the activated GR reduced the H3K9ac and H3K27ac levels of 11β-HSD2 by recruiting HDAC4 and promoting GR-HDAC4 protein interaction to inhibit the 11β-HSD2 expression. Moreover, caffeine could reduce the expression of 11β-HSD2 by inhibiting the cAMP/PKA signaling pathway but without reducing the H3K9ac and H3K27ac levels of 11β-HSD2, thereby synergistically enhancing the corticosterone effect. In conclusion, the persistently reduced H3K9ac and H3K27ac levels of 11β-HSD2 from fetus to adulthood mediated the inhibition of cartilage matrix synthesis and the increased susceptibility to osteoarthritis. This epigenetic programming change in utero was induced by glucocorticoids with synergistic effect of caffeine. Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Huasong Shi, Bin Li, Hui Gao, Hangyuan He, Zhixin Wu, Jacques Magdaloud, Hui Wang, Liaobin Chen. Intrauterine programming of cartilaginous 11β-HSD2 induced by corticosterone and caffeine mediated susceptibility to adult osteoarthritis. Ecotoxicology and environmental safety. 2022 Jul 01;239:113624

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PMID: 35588619

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