Int J Biol Sci 2020; 16(6):994-1009. doi:10.7150/ijbs.39945 This issue

Research Paper

DNA methylation is involved in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis by regulating CtBP expression and CtBP-mediated signaling

Xiangxiang Sun, Lin Xiao, Juan Chen, Xun Chen, Xinlin Chen, Shuxin Yao, Hui Li, Guanghui Zhao, Jianbing Ma

Department of Orthopaedics, Honghui Hospital, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710054, Shaanxi, China.

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Sun X, Xiao L, Chen J, Chen X, Chen X, Yao S, Li H, Zhao G, Ma J. DNA methylation is involved in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis by regulating CtBP expression and CtBP-mediated signaling. Int J Biol Sci 2020; 16(6):994-1009. doi:10.7150/ijbs.39945. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common type of arthritis. Chronic inflammation is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of OA. The maturation and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines are controlled by inflammasomes, especially NLRP1 (NLR Family Pyrin Domain Containing 1) and NLRP3. In this study, we identified a transactivation mechanism of NLRP3 mediated by CtBPs (C-terminal-binding proteins). We found that both the mRNA and protein levels of CtBPs were significantly increased in OA biopsies. Analyzing the profiles of differentially expressed genes in CtBP-knockdown and overexpression cells, we found that the expression of NLRP3 was dependent on CtBP levels. By the knockdown or overexpression of transcription factors that potentially bind to the promoter of NLRP3, we found that only AP1 could specifically regulate the expression of NLRP3. Using immunoprecipitation (IP) and Co-IP assays, we found that AP1 formed a transcriptional complex with a histone acetyltransferase p300 and CtBPs. The knockdown of any member of this transcriptional complex resulted in a decrease in the expression of NLRP3. To explore the underlying mechanism of CtBP overexpression, we analyzed their promoters and found that they were abundant in CpG islands. Treatment with the DNA methylation inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (AZA) or knockdown of DNMTs (DNA methyltransferases) resulted in the overexpression of CtBPs, while overexpression of DNMTs caused the reverse effects on CtBP expression. Collectively, our results suggest that the decreased DNA methylation levels in the promoters of CtBPs upregulate their expression. Increased CtBPs associated with p300 and AP1 to form a transcriptional complex and activate the expression of NLRP3 and its downstream signaling, eventually aggravating the inflammatory response and leading to the pathogenesis of OA.

Keywords: DNA methylation, CtBP, p300, AP1, NLRP3, IL-1B.