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Estradiol protects cultured articular chondrocytes from oxygen-radical-induced damage

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is aggravated in menopausal women possibly because of changed serum estrogen levels. Estradiol has been postulated to affect oxidative stress induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS) in articular chondrocytes. We generated ROS in cultured bovine articular chondrocytes by incubating them with combined Fe2SO4, vitamin C, and hydrogen peroxide. The release of thiobarbituric-acid-reactive substances (TBARS, lipid peroxidation) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH, membrane damage) was measured photometrically. Various estradiol doses and vitamin E, serving as control with an established anti-oxidative capacity, were applied either upon each exchange of medium and during radical production (strategy 1) or only during radical production (strategy 2). In chondrocytes incubated according to strategy 1, the production of TBARS and LDH release were significantly suppressed by 10−10–10−4 M estradiol or by vitamin E. Under strategy 2, the production of TBARS was significantly suppressed at estradiol concentrations higher than 10−6 M, whereas LDH release was inhibited at concentrations of 10−6–10−4 M. Vitamin E showed no significant effects. As repeated application of estradiol and vitamin E produced the best results, estradiol, like vitamin E, was speculated to accumulate in the plasma membrane and to decrease membrane fluidity resulting in protection against lipid peroxidation (non-genomic effect). Thus, in contrast to the neuroprotective effect of 17β-estradiol in supraphysiological doses reported recently, the anti-oxidative potential of estradiol appears to protect articular chondrocytes from ROS-induced damage when the hormone is given repeatedly in a physiological range. Decreased estradiol levels may therefore contribute to menopausal OA in the long term.

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We thank Rita Kirsch, Claudia Kremling, and Frank Lichte for their skillful assistance during the experiments.

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Correspondence to Horst Claassen.

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Claassen, H., Schünke, M. & Kurz, B. Estradiol protects cultured articular chondrocytes from oxygen-radical-induced damage. Cell Tissue Res 319, 439–445 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441-004-1029-9

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  • Articular cartilage
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Menopause
  • 17β-Estradiol
  • Bovine