Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)-induced inflammation and degradation of aggrecan in human chondrocytes play an important role in the progression and development of osteoarthritis (OA). Azilsartan, an angiotensin II receptor antagonist, has been licensed for the treatment of high blood pressure. However, the effects of Azilsartan in OA and AGEs-induced damages in chondrocytes have not been previously reported. The injured chondrocytes model was established by incubating with 5 μmol/L AGEs. 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide was used to evaluate the cell viability of treated SW1353 cells. The gene expression levels of interleukin-1α (IL-1α), tumor necrosis factor-β (TNF-β), IL-6, a disintegrin-like and metallopeptidase with thrombospondin type motif-4 (ADAMTS-4), ADAMTS-5, Aggrecan, and Sox-4 were evaluated using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and their protein levels were determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or Western blot analysis. Mitogen-activated protein kinase p38 pathway was surveyed using phosp-p38 level and its specific inhibitor SB203580 was employed to block the p38 pathway. The overexpression of Sox4 plasmid was transfected into SW1353 cells to assess its regulation on ADAMTS-4 and ADAMTS-5. Azilsartan reduced AGEs-induced production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1α, TNF-β, and IL-6. Azilsartan prevented AGEs-induced expressions of ADAMTS-4 and ADAMTS-5 as well as the reduction of aggrecan. Mechanistically, AGEs treatment increased the expression of Sox4 in a dose-dependent manner. AGE treatment increased the level of phosphorylated p38. However, treatment with the p38 inhibitor SB203580 inhibited AGEs-induced expression of Sox4, suggesting that AGEs-induced expression of Sox4 is mediated by p38. Furthermore, Azilsartan suppressed AGEs-induced phosphorylation of p38 and expression of Sox4. Finally, the overexpression of Sox4 abolished the inhibitory effects of Azilsartan against the expressions of ADAMTS-4 and ADAMTS-5. Azilsartan treatment prevented AGEs-induced inflammatory response and degradation of aggrecan through inhibition of Sox4.
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