We investigated the effects of lifelong voluntary exercise on articular cartilage of mice. At the age of 4 weeks C57BL mice (n = 152) were divided into two groups, with one group serving as a sedentary control whereas the other was allowed free access to a running wheel from the age of 1 month onward. Mice were euthanized at four different time points (1, 2, 6, and 18 months of age). Articular cartilage samples were gathered from the load-bearing area of the tibial medial plateaus, and osteoarthritis was graded. Additionally, the proteoglycan content distribution was assessed using digital densitometry, collagen fibril orientation, and parallelism with polarized light microscopy, and collagen content using Fourier transform infrared imaging spectroscopy. The incidence of osteoarthritis increased with aging, but exercise had no effect on this trend. Furthermore, the structure and composition revealed significant growth, maturation, and age-dependent properties. Exercise exerted a minor effect on collagen fibril orientation in the superficial zone. Fibril orientation at 2 months of age was more perpendicular to surface (p < 0.05) in controls compared with runners, whereas the situation was reversed at the age of 18 months (p < 0.05). The collagen content of the superficial zone was higher (p < 0.01) at the age of 18 months in controls compared with runners but the proteoglycan content did not display any exercise-dependent changes. In conclusion, growth, maturation, and aging exerted a clear effect on integrity, structure, and composition of medial tibial plateau articular cartilage in mice, whereas lifelong voluntary exercise had only a minor effect on collagen architecture and content.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding from the Ministry of Education, Finland, to University of Eastern Finland (project 5765) and the Academy of Finland (projects 110595 and 113112) is acknowledged.
- articular cartilage
- physical exercise