Homeostasis of articular cartilage depends in part on mechanical loads generated during daily activity whereas inappropriate joint loads result in focal degeneration of cartilage, as occurs in osteoarthritis. We will review results of a series of questions regarding the effects of two types of mechanical loads-intermittent hydrostatic pressure and shear stress-on adult human articular chondrocytes in high-density monolayer culture. Intermittent hydrostatic pressure increased aggrecan and Type II collagen gene expression in normal chondrocytes and induced changes in the cell-associated proteins of normal and osteoarthritic chondrocytes. Hydrostatic pressure also counteracted inhibitory effects of bacterial lipopolysaccharide on matrix protein expression by cultured chondrocytes. Application of shear stress to osteoarthritic chondrocytes increased the release of the proinflammatory mediator, nitric oxide, decreased aggrecan and Type II collagen expression, and induced molecular changes associated with apoptosis whereas hydrostatic pressure increased matrix macromolecule expression. The findings show that the types of load comprising the mechanical loading environment of articular cartilage considerably alter chondrocyte metabolism and suggest that mechanical stimulation may be used for in vitro or in vivo approaches for cartilage engineering.

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