Recent studies suggest that there are multiple regulatory pathways by which chondrocytes in articular cartilage sense and respond to mechanical stimuli, including upstream signaling pathways and mechanisms that may lead to direct changes at the level of transcription, translation, post-translational modifications, and cell-mediated extracellular assembly and degradation of the tissue matrix. This review focuses on the effects of mechanical loading on cartilage and the resulting chondrocyte-mediated biosynthesis, remodeling, degradation, and repair of this tissue. The effects of compression and tissue shear deformation are compared, and approaches to the study of mechanical regulation of gene expression are described. Of particular interest regarding dense connective tissues, recent experiments have shown that mechanotransduction is critically important in vivo in the cell-mediated feedback between physical stimuli, the molecular structure of newly synthesized matrix molecules, and the resulting macroscopic biomechanical properties of the tissue.
cartilage; extracellular matrix; mechanotransduction; gene expression; molecular mechanics