BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2018 19:291

Persistent synovial inflammation plays important roles in persistent pain development in the rat knee before cartilage degradation reaches the subchondral bone

Takashi Hoshino, Kunikazu Tsuji, Hiroaki Onuma, Mio Udo, Hiroko Ueki, Masako Akiyama, Kahaer Abula, Hiroki Katagiri, Kazumasa Miyatake, Toshihumi Watanabe, Ichiro Sekiya, Hideyuki Koga and Takeshi Muneta


The major complaint of knee osteoarthritis (OA) is persistent pain. Unlike acute inflammatory pain, persistent pain is usually difficult to manage since its pathology is not fully understood. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms of persistent pain, we established 2 different inflammation-induced arthritis models by injecting monoiodo-acetic acid (MIA) into the joint cavity and performed integrated analyses of the structural changes in the synovial tissue and articular cartilage, sensory neuron rearrangement, and pain avoidance behavior in a rat arthritis model.


Male Wistar rats received intra-articular injections of MIA (0.2 mg/30 μL, low-dose group; 1 mg/30 μL, high-dose group) in the right knee and phosphate buffered saline (PBS; 30 μL, control group) in the left knee. Fluorogold (FG), a retrograde neural tracer, was used to label the nerve fibers for the identification of sensory neurons that dominate the joints in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Both knees were subjected to the intra-articular injection of 2% FG in PBS (5 μL) under anesthesia 5–7 days prior to sacrifice. We performed pain avoidance behavior tests (incapacitance and von Frey tests) at 0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days. At 5, 14, and 28 days, the rats were sacrificed and the knee joint and DRG were excised for histological assessment. The knee joints were stained with hematoxylin and eosin, safranin O, and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). The DRG were immunostained with CGRP.


A transient inflammatory response followed by mild articular cartilage degeneration was observed in the low-dose MIA model versus persistent inflammation with structural changes in the synovial tissue (fibrosis) in the high-dose model. In the high-dose model, full-thickness cartilage degeneration was observed within 2 weeks post-MIA injection. The pain avoidance behavior tests indicated that persistent synovial inflammation and structural changes of the infrapatellar fat pad may play important roles in persistent knee joint pain before the articular cartilage degeneration reaches the subchondral bone.


Transient inflammation without structural changes of the synovial tissues did not induce persistent pain in the rat knee joint before degradation of the articular cartilage reached the subchondral bone plate.

Download article