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Molecular Analysis of Age and Sex-Related Gene Expression in Meniscal Tears with and without a Concomitant Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear
Robert H. Brophy, MD1; Muhammad Farooq Rai, PhD1; Zhiqi Zhang, MD1; Adelina Torgomyan, PhD1; Linda J. Sandell, PhD1
1 Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery (R.H.B., M.F.R., Z.Z., A.T., and L.J.S.) and Cell Biology and Physiology (L.J.S.), Washington University School of Medicine,14532 South Outer Forty Drive, Chesterfield, MO 63017
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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri

This article was chosen to appear electronically on February 22, 2012, in advance of publication in a regularly scheduled issue.

A commentary by Helen Kambic, PhD, is linked to the online version of this article at jbjs.org.

Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. In addition, one or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Mar 07;94(5):385-393. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00919
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The meniscus plays critical roles in the knee, contributing to load transmission, shock absorption, and joint stability. Little is known about gene expression in meniscal tears, particularly in relation to injury pattern and patient age and sex. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that gene expression in meniscal tears varies depending on patient age and sex and whether the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is also torn.


Meniscal tissue from twenty-eight patients with an isolated meniscal tear or a meniscal tear with a concomitant ACL tear was collected at the time of clinically indicated partial meniscectomy. Messenger RNA (mRNA) expression was examined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction for molecular markers of osteoarthritis including proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1α, IL-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNFα]), chemokines (IL-8, CCL3, CCL3L1, CXCL1, CXCL3, CXCL6, and CCL20), aggrecanases (ADAMTS-4 [a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin type-4 motifs] and ADAMTS-5), matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-1, MMP-3, MMP-9, and MMP-13), transcription factors (NFκB2 [nuclear factor kappa B2], NFκBIA [NF-kappa B inhibitor alpha], and IκBA [inhibitor of kappa B alpha]), and matrix components (bone morphogenetic protein [BMP]-2, type-I collagen alpha 1 [Col1a1], Col2a1, and aggrecan).


Expression of IL-1β (p = 0.02), ADAMTS-5 (p = 0.001), MMP-1 (p = 0.007), MMP-9 (p = 0.002), MMP-13 (p = 0.01), and NFκB2 (p = 0.01) was significantly higher in patients with a meniscal tear who were under the age of forty years than it was in those over the age of forty years. Similarly, the expression of ADAMTS-4 (p = 0.002), ADAMTS-5 (p = 0.02), MMP-1 (p = 0.02), and MMP-13 (p = 0.0002) was higher in patients with a meniscal tear and an ACL tear who were under the age of forty years than it was in those over forty years. In patients with a meniscal tear and an ACL tear, the expression of IL-1β (p = 0.01), TNFα (p = 0.02), MMP-13 (p = 0.004), CCL3 (p = 0.03), and CCL3L1 (p = 0.03) was significantly higher, while that of aggrecan (p = 0.03) was lower, than that in patients with a meniscal tear alone. The only sex-based difference in gene expression was higher levels of CCL3L1 in female patients (p < 0.05) of all ages with combined injuries.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance: 

These findings suggest clinically relevant differences in the response of the knee to meniscal tears on the basis of patient age and sex. Elevated expression levels of arthritis-related markers indicate an increased catabolic response in patients under forty years old. Higher expression of catabolic markers in patients with meniscal and ACL tears suggests this combined injury pattern is more likely to lead to the development of osteoarthritis. Catabolic activity in meniscal tissue may predict patients who are at risk for progression of osteoarthritis following partial meniscectomy.

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    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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