The mechanical challenge of attaching elastic tendons to stiff bones is solved by the formation of a unique transitional tissue. Here, we show that murine tendon-to-bone attachment cells are bi-fated, activating a mixture of chondrocyte and tenocyte transcriptomes, under regulation of shared regulatory elements and Krüppel-like factors (KLFs) transcription factors. High-throughput bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing of humeral attachment cells revealed expression of hundreds of chondrogenic and tenogenic genes, which was validated by in situ hybridization and single-molecule ISH. ATAC sequencing showed that attachment cells share accessible intergenic chromatin areas with either tenocytes or chondrocytes. Epigenomic analysis revealed enhancer signatures for most of these regions. Transgenic mouse enhancer reporter assays verified the shared activity of some of these enhancers. Finally, integrative chromatin and motif analyses and transcriptomic data implicated KLFs as regulators of attachment cells. Indeed, blocking expression of both Klf2 and Klf4 in developing limb mesenchyme impaired their differentiation.
Type I interferons (IFNs) are our first line of defense against virus infection. Recent studies have suggested the ability of SARS-CoV-2 proteins to inhibit IFN responses. Emerging data also suggest that timing and extent of IFN production is associated with manifestation of COVID-19 severity. In spite of progress in understanding how SARS-CoV-2 activates antiviral responses, mechanistic studies into wild-type SARS-CoV-2-mediated induction and inhibition of human type I IFN responses are scarce. Here we demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 infection induces a type I IFN response in vitro and in moderate cases of COVID-19. In vitro stimulation of type I IFN expression and signaling in human airway epithelial cells is associated with activation of canonical transcriptions factors, and SARS-CoV-2 is unable to inhibit exogenous induction of these responses. Furthermore, we show that physiological levels of IFNα detected in patients with moderate COVID-19 is sufficient to suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication in human airway cells.
Given the pleiotropic nature of coding sequences and that many loci exhibit multiple disease associations, it is within non-coding sequence that disease-specificity likely exists. Here, we focus on joint disorders, finding among replicated loci, that GDF5 exhibits over twenty distinct associations, and we identify causal variants for two of its strongest associations, hip dysplasia and knee osteoarthritis. By mapping regulatory regions in joint chondrocytes, we pinpoint two variants (rs4911178; rs6060369), on the same risk haplotype, which reside in anatomical site-specific enhancers. We show that both variants have clinical relevance, impacting disease by altering morphology. By modeling each variant in humanized mice, we observe joint-specific response, correlating with GDF5 expression. Thus, we uncouple separate regulatory variants on a common risk haplotype that cause joint-specific disease. By broadening our perspective, we finally find that patterns of modularity at GDF5 are also found at over three-quarters of loci with multiple GWAS disease associations.
Epigenetic shifts are a hallmark of aging that impact transcriptional networks at regulatory level. These shifts may modify the effects of genetic regulatory variants during aging and contribute to disease pathomechanism. However, these shifts occur on the backdrop of epigenetic changes experienced throughout an individual's development into adulthood; thus, the phenotypic, and ultimately fitness, effects of regulatory variants subject to developmental- versus aging-related epigenetic shifts may differ considerably. Natural selection therefore may act differently on variants depending on their changing epigenetic context, which we propose as a novel lens through which to consider regulatory sequence evolution and phenotypic effects. Here, we define genomic regions subjected to altered chromatin accessibility as tissues transition from their fetal to adult forms, and subsequently from early to late adulthood. Based on these epigenomic datasets, we examine patterns of evolutionary constraint and potential functional impacts of sequence variation (e.g., genetic disease risk associations). We find that while the signals observed with developmental epigenetic changes are consistent with stronger fitness consequences (i.e., negative selection pressures), they tend to have weaker effects on genetic risk associations for aging-related diseases. Conversely, we see stronger effects of variants with increased local accessibility in adult tissues, strongest in young adult when compared to old. We propose a model for how epigenetic status of a region may influence the effects of evolutionary relevant sequence variation, and suggest that such a perspective on gene regulatory networks may elucidate our understanding of aging biology.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The ability to analyze the molecular events occurring within individual cells as opposed to populations of cells is revolutionizing our understanding of musculoskeletal tissue development and disease. Single cell studies have the great potential of identifying cellular subpopulations that work in a synchronized fashion to regenerate and repair damaged tissues during normal homeostasis. In addition, such studies can elucidate how these processes break down in disease as well as identify cellular subpopulations that drive the disease. This review highlights three emerging technologies: single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq), and Cytometry by Time-Of-Flight (CyTOF) mass cytometry.
RECENT FINDINGS: Technological and bioinformatic tools to analyze the transcriptome, epigenome, and proteome at the individual cell level have advanced rapidly making data collection relatively easy; however, understanding how to access and interpret the data remains a challenge for many scientists. It is, therefore, of paramount significance to educate the musculoskeletal community on how single cell technologies can be used to answer research questions and advance translation. This article summarizes talks given during a workshop on "Single Cell Omics" at the 2020 annual meeting of the Orthopedic Research Society. Studies that applied scRNA-seq, ATAC-seq, and CyTOF mass cytometry to cartilage development and osteoarthritis are reviewed. This body of work shows how these cutting-edge tools can advance our understanding of the cellular heterogeneity and trajectories of lineage specification during development and disease.
OBJECTIVE: Develop a bone shape measure that reflects the extent of cartilage loss and bone flattening in knee osteoarthritis (OA) and test it against estimates of disease severity.
METHODS: A fast region-based convolutional neural network was trained to crop the knee joints in sagittal dual-echo steady state MRI sequences obtained from the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI). Publicly available annotations of the cartilage and menisci were used as references to annotate the tibia and the femur in 61 knees. Another deep neural network (U-Net) was developed to learn these annotations. Model predictions were compared with radiologist-driven annotations on an independent test set (27 knees). The U-Net was applied to automatically extract the knee joint structures on the larger OAI dataset (9,434 knees). We defined subchondral bone length (SBL), a novel shape measure characterizing the extent of overlying cartilage and bone flattening, and examined its relationship with radiographic joint space narrowing (JSN), concurrent WOMAC pain and disability as well as subsequent partial or total knee replacement (KR). Odds ratios for each outcome were estimated using relative changes in SBL on the OAI dataset into quartiles.
RESULT: Mean SBL values for knees with JSN were consistently different from knees without JSN. Greater changes of SBL from baseline were associated with greater pain and disability. For knees with medial or lateral JSN, the odds ratios between lowest and highest quartiles corresponding to SBL changes for future KR were 5.68 (95% CI:[3.90,8.27]) and 7.19 (95% CI:[3.71,13.95]), respectively.
CONCLUSION: SBL quantified OA status based on JSN severity. It has promise as an imaging marker in predicting clinical and structural OA outcomes.
BACKGROUND: Despite recent advances in the understanding of the genetic architecture of osteoarthritis (OA), only two genetic loci have been identified for OA of the hand, in part explained by the complexity of the different hand joints and heterogeneity of OA pathology.
METHODS: We used data from the Rotterdam Study (RSI, RSII and RSIII) to create three hand OA phenotypes based on clustering patterns of radiographic OA severity to increase power in our modest discovery genome-wide association studies in the RS (n=8700), and sought replication in an independent cohort, the Framingham Heart Study (n=1203). We used multiple approaches that leverage different levels of information and functional data to further investigate the underlying biological mechanisms and candidate genes for replicated loci. We also attempted to replicate known OA loci at other joint sites, including the hips and knees.
RESULTS: We found two novel genome-wide significant loci for OA in the thumb joints. We identified WNT9A as a possible novel causal gene involved in OA pathogenesis. Furthermore, several previously identified genetic loci for OA seem to confer risk for OA across multiple joints: TGFa, RUNX2, COL27A1, ASTN2, IL11 and GDF5 loci.
CONCLUSIONS: We identified a robust novel genetic locus for hand OA on chromosome 1, of which WNT9A is the most likely causal gene. In addition, multiple genetic loci were identified to be associated with OA across multiple joints. Our study confirms the potential for novel insight into the genetic architecture of OA by using biologically meaningful stratified phenotypes.
OBJECTIVES: It remains difficult to characterize the source of pain in knee joints either using radiographs or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We sought to determine if advanced machine learning methods such as deep neural networks could distinguish knees with pain from those without it and identify the structural features that are associated with knee pain.
METHODS: We constructed a convolutional Siamese network to associate MRI scans obtained on subjects from the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) with frequent unilateral knee pain comparing the knee with frequent pain to the contralateral knee without pain. The Siamese network architecture enabled pairwise learning of information from two-dimensional (2D) sagittal intermediate-weighted turbo spin echo slices obtained from similar locations on both knees. Class activation mapping (CAM) was utilized to create saliency maps, which highlighted the regions most associated with knee pain. The MRI scans and the CAMs of each subject were reviewed by an expert radiologist to identify the presence of abnormalities within the model-predicted regions of high association.
RESULTS: Using 10-fold cross-validation, our model achieved an area under curve (AUC) value of 0.808. When individuals whose knee WOMAC pain scores were not discordant were excluded, model performance increased to 0.853. The radiologist review revealed that about 86% of the cases that were predicted correctly had effusion-synovitis within the regions that were most associated with pain.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates a proof of principle that deep learning can be applied to assess knee pain from MRI scans.
KEY POINTS: • Our article is the first to leverage a deep learning framework to associate MR images of the knee with knee pain. • We developed a convolutional Siamese network that had the ability to fuse information from multiple two-dimensional (2D) MRI slices from the knee with pain and the contralateral knee of the same individual without pain to predict unilateral knee pain. • Our model achieved an area under curve (AUC) value of 0.808. When individuals who had WOMAC pain scores that were not discordant for knees (pain discordance < 3) were excluded, model performance increased to 0.853.
Dentine- and enamel-forming cells secrete matrix in consistent rhythmic phases, resulting in the formation of successive microscopic growth lines inside tooth crowns and roots. Experimental studies of various mammals have proven that these lines are laid down in subdaily, daily (circadian), and multidaily rhythms, but it is less clear how these rhythms are initiated and maintained. In 2001, researchers reported that lesioning the so-called master biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), halted daily line formation in rat dentine, whereas subdaily lines persisted. More recently, a key clock gene (Bmal1) expressed in the SCN in a circadian manner was also found to be active in dentine- and enamel- secretory cells. To probe these potential neurological and local mechanisms for the production of rhythmic lines in teeth, we reexamined the role of the SCN in growth line formation in Wistar rats and investigated the presence of daily lines in Bmal1 knockout mice (Bmal1 ). In contrast to the results of the 2001 study, we found that both daily and subdaily growth lines persisted in rat dentine after complete or partial SCN lesion in the majority of individuals. In mice, after transfer into constant darkness, daily rhythms continued to manifest as incremental lines in the dentine of each Bmal1 genotype (wild-type, Bmal , and Bmal1 ). These results affirm that the manifestation of biological rhythms in teeth is a robust phenomenon, imply a more autonomous role of local biological clocks in tooth growth than previously suggested, and underscore the need further to elucidate tissue-specific circadian biology and its role in incremental line formation. Investigations of this nature will strengthen an invaluable system for determining growth rates and calendar ages from mammalian hard tissues, as well as documenting the early lives of fossil hominins and other primates.
During human evolution, the knee adapted to the biomechanical demands of bipedalism by altering chondrocyte developmental programs. This adaptive process was likely not without deleterious consequences to health. Today, osteoarthritis occurs in 250 million people, with risk variants enriched in non-coding sequences near chondrocyte genes, loci that likely became optimized during knee evolution. We explore this relationship by epigenetically profiling joint chondrocytes, revealing ancient selection and recent constraint and drift on knee regulatory elements, which also overlap osteoarthritis variants that contribute to disease heritability by tending to modify constrained functional sequence. We propose a model whereby genetic violations to regulatory constraint, tolerated during knee development, lead to adult pathology. In support, we discover a causal enhancer variant (rs6060369) present in billions of people at a risk locus (GDF5-UQCC1), showing how it impacts mouse knee-shape and osteoarthritis. Overall, our methods link an evolutionarily novel aspect of human anatomy to its pathogenesis.
Growth and Differentiation Factor 5 (GDF5) is a key risk locus for osteoarthritis (OA). However, little is known regarding regulation of Gdf5 expression following joint tissue damage. Here, we employed Gdf5-LacZ reporter mouse lines to assess the spatiotemporal activity of Gdf5 regulatory sequences in experimental OA following destabilisation of the medial meniscus (DMM) and after acute cartilage injury and repair. Gdf5 expression was upregulated in articular cartilage post-DMM, and was increased in human OA cartilage as determined by immunohistochemistry and microarray analysis. Gdf5 expression was also upregulated during cartilage repair in mice and was switched on in injured synovium in prospective areas of cartilage formation, where it inversely correlated with expression of the transcriptional co-factor Yes-associated protein (Yap). Indeed, overexpression of Yap suppressed Gdf5 expression in chondroprogenitors in vitro. Gdf5 expression in both mouse injury models required regulatory sequence downstream of Gdf5 coding exons. Our findings suggest that Gdf5 upregulation in articular cartilage and synovium is a generic response to knee injury that is dependent on downstream regulatory sequence and in progenitors is associated with chondrogenic specification. We propose a role for Gdf5 in tissue remodelling and repair after injury, which may partly underpin its association with OA risk.
Variation in pelvic morphology has a complex genetic basis and its patterning and specification is governed by conserved developmental pathways. Whether the mechanisms underlying the differentiation and specification of the pelvis also produce the morphological covariation on which natural selection may act, is still an open question in evolutionary developmental biology. We use high-resolution quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping in the F generation of an advanced intercross experiment (LG,SM-G ) to characterize the genetic architecture of the mouse pelvis. We test the prediction that genomic features linked to developmental patterning and differentiation of the hind limb and pelvis and the regulation of chondrogenesis are overrepresented in QTL. We find 31 single QTL trait associations at the genome- or chromosome-wise significance level coalescing to 27 pleiotropic loci. We recover further QTL at a more relaxed significance threshold replicating locations found in a previous experiment in an earlier generation of the same population. QTL were more likely than chance to harbor Pitx1 and Sox9 Class II chromatin immunoprecipitation-seq features active during development of skeletal features. There was weak or no support for the enrichment of seven more categories of developmental features drawn from the literature. Our results suggest that genotypic variation is channeled through a subset of developmental processes involved in the generation of phenotypic variation in the pelvis. This finding indicates that the evolvability of complex traits may be subject to biases not evident from patterns of covariance among morphological features or developmental patterning when either is considered in isolation.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The goal of the review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the current understanding of the mechanisms underlying variation in human stature.
RECENT FINDINGS: Human height is an anthropometric trait that varies considerably within human populations as well as across the globe. Historically, much research focus was placed on understanding the biology of growth plate chondrocytes and how modifications to core chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation pathways potentially shaped height attainment in normal as well as pathological contexts. Recently, much progress has been made to improve our understanding regarding the mechanisms underlying the normal and pathological range of height variation within as well as between human populations, and today, it is understood to reflect complex interactions among a myriad of genetic, environmental, and evolutionary factors. Indeed, recent improvements in genetics (e.g., GWAS) and breakthroughs in functional genomics (e.g., whole exome sequencing, DNA methylation analysis, ATAC-sequencing, and CRISPR) have shed light on previously unknown pathways/mechanisms governing pathological and common height variation. Additionally, the use of an evolutionary perspective has also revealed important mechanisms that have shaped height variation across the planet. This review provides an overview of the current knowledge of the biological mechanisms underlying height variation by highlighting new research findings on skeletal growth control with an emphasis on previously unknown pathways/mechanisms influencing pathological and common height variation. In this context, this review also discusses how evolutionary forces likely shaped the genomic architecture of height across the globe.
OBJECTIVES: Little is known about how ilium cortical bone responds to loading. Using a mouse model, this study presents data testing the hypothesis that iliac cross-sectional properties are altered in response to increased activity. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The sample derives from lines of High Runner (HR) mice bred for increased wheel-running activity. Four treatment groups of female mice were tested: non-selected control lines housed without (N = 19) and with wheels (N = 20), and HR mice housed without (N = 17) and with wheels (N = 18) for 13 weeks beginning at weaning. Each pelvis was μCT-scanned, cross-sectional properties (cortical area-Ct.Ar, total area-Tt.Ar, polar moment of area, and polar section modulus) were determined from the ilium midshaft, and robusticity indices (ratio of the square root of Ct.Ar or Tt.Ar to caudal ilium length) were calculated. Mixed models were implemented with linetype, wheel access, and presence of the mini-muscle phenotype as fixed effects, replicate line nested within linetype as a random effect, and body mass as a covariate. RESULTS: Results demonstrate that the mouse ilium morphologically resembles a long bone in cross section. Body mass and the mini-muscle phenotype were significant predictors of iliac cross-sectional properties. Wheel access only had a statistically significant effect on Ct.Ar and its robusticity index, with greater values in mice with wheel access. DISCUSSION: These results suggest that voluntary exercise increases cortical area, but does not otherwise strengthen the ilium in these mice, corroborating previous studies on the effect of increased wheel-running activity on femoral and humeral cross-sectional properties in these mice.
In tetrapods, the scapular and pelvic girdles perform the important function of anchoring the limbs to the trunk of the body and facilitating the movement of each appendage. This shared function, however, is one of relatively few similarities between the scapula and pelvis, which have significantly different morphologies, evolutionary histories, embryonic origins, and underlying genetic pathways. The scapula evolved in jawless fish prior to the pelvis, and its embryonic development is unique among bones in that it is derived from multiple progenitor cell populations, including the dermomyotome, somatopleure, and neural crest. Conversely, the pelvis evolved several million years later in jawed fish, and it develops from an embryonic somatopleuric cell population. The genetic networks controlling the formation of the pelvis and scapula also share similarities and differences, with a number of genes shaping only one or the other, while other gene products such as PBX transcription factors act as hierarchical developmental regulators of both girdle structures. Here, we provide a detailed review of the cellular processes and genetic networks underlying pelvis and scapula formation in tetrapods, while also highlighting unanswered questions about girdle evolution and development.
In bone, sclerostin is mainly osteocyte-derived and plays an important local role in adaptive responses to mechanical loading. Whether circulating levels of sclerostin also play a functional role is currently unclear, which we aimed to examine by two sample Mendelian Randomisation (MR). A genetic instrument for circulating sclerostin, derived from a genome wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis of serum sclerostin in 10,584 European-descent individuals, was examined in relation to femoral neck bone mineral density (BMD; n= 32,744) in GEFOS, and estimated BMD by heel ultrasound (eBMD; n=426,824), and fracture risk (n=426,795), in UK Biobank. Our GWAS identified two novel serum sclerostin loci, B4GALNT3 (standard deviation (SD)) change in sclerostin per A allele (β=0.20, P=4.6x10 ), and GALNT1 (β=0.11 per G allele, P=4.4x10 ). B4GALNT3 is an N-acetyl-galactosaminyltransferase, adding a terminal LacdiNAc disaccharide to target glycocoproteins, found to be predominantly expressed in kidney, whereas GALNT1 is an enzyme causing mucin-type O-linked glycosylation. Using these two SNPs as genetic instruments, MR revealed an inverse causal relationship between serum sclerostin and femoral neck BMD (β= -0.12, 95%CI= -0.20 to -0.05) and eBMD (β= -0.12, 95%CI= -0.14 to -0.10), and a positive relationship with fracture risk (β= 0.11,95%CI= 0.01 to 0.21). Colocalization analysis demonstrated common genetic signals within the B4GALNT3 locus for higher sclerostin, lower eBMD, and greater B4GALNT3 expression in arterial tissue (Probability>99%). Our findings suggest that higher sclerostin levels are causally related to lower BMD and greater fracture risk. Hence, strategies for reducing circulating sclerostin, for example by targeting glycosylation enzymes as suggested by our GWAS results, may prove valuable in treating osteoporosis. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
OBJECTIVES: Given the role of growth and differentiation factor 5 () in knee development and osteoarthritis risk, we sought to characterise knee defects resulting from loss of function and how its regulatory regions control knee formation and morphology. METHODS: The () mouse line, which harbours an inactivating mutation in , was used to survey how loss of function impacts knee morphology, while two transgenic reporter bacterial artificial chromosome mouse lines were used to assess the spatiotemporal activity and function of regulatory sequences in the context of clinically relevant knee anatomical features. RESULTS: Knees from homozygous mice () exhibit underdeveloped femoral condyles and tibial plateaus, no cruciate ligaments, and poorly developed menisci. Secondary ossification is also delayed in the distal femur and proximal tibia. mice have significantly narrower femoral condyles, femoral notches and tibial plateaus, and curvier medial femoral condyles, shallower trochlea, steeper lateral tibial slopes and smaller tibial spines. Regulatory sequences upstream from were weakly active in the prenatal knee, while downstream regulatory sequences were active throughout life. Importantly, downstream but not upstream regulatory sequences fully restored all the key morphological features disrupted in the mice. CONCLUSIONS: Knee morphology is profoundly affected by absence, and downstream regulatory sequences mediate its effects by controlling expression in knee tissues. This downstream region contains numerous enhancers harbouring human variants that span the osteoarthritis association interval. We posit that subtle alterations to morphology driven by changes in downstream regulatory sequence underlie this locus' role in osteoarthritis risk.