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Differential metabolic effects of glucosamine and Nacetylglucosamine in human articular chondrocytes

Alexander R. Shikhman, Diana C. Brinson, Jean Valbracht and Martin K. Lotz

Objective—Aminosugars are commonly used to treat osteoarthritis; however, molecular mechanisms mediating their anti-arthritic activities are still poorly understood. This study analyzes facilitated transport and metabolic effects of glucosamine (GlcN) and N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) in human articular chondrocytes.

Methods—Human articular chondrocytes were isolated from knee cartilage. Facilitated transport of glucose, GlcN and GlcNAc was measured by uptake of [ 3H]2-deoxyglucose, [ 3H]GlcN and [ 3H] GlcNAc. Glucose transporter (GLUT) expression was analyzed by Western blotting. Production of sulfated glycosaminoglycans (SGAG) was measured using [ 35 S]SO4. Hyaluronan was quantified using hyaluronan binding protein.

Results—Chondrocytes actively import and metabolize GlcN but not GlcNAc and this represents a cell-type specific phenomenon. Similar to facilitated glucose transport, GlcN transport in chondrocytes is accelerated by cytokines and growth factors. GlcN non-competitively inhibits basal glucose transport, which in part depends on GlcN-mediated depletion of ATP stores. In IL-1ß- stimulated chondrocytes, GlcN inhibits membrane translocation of GLUT1 and 6, but does not affect the expression of GLUT3. In contrast to GlcN, GlcNAc accelerates facilitated glucose transport. In parallel with the opposing actions of these aminosugars on glucose transport, GlcN inhibits hyaluronan and SGAG synthesis while GlcNAc stimulates hyaluronan synthesis. GlcNAcaccelerated hyaluronan synthesis is associated with upregulation of hyaluronan synthase-2.

Conclusion—Differences in GlcN and GlcNAc uptake, and their subsequent effects on glucose transport, GLUT expression and SGAG and hyaluronan synthesis, indicate that these two aminosugars have distinct molecular mechanisms mediating their differential biological activities in chondrocytes.

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