A model system of explanted cartilage has been used in vitro to determine whether insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF 1), which promotes matrix formation is effective in the presence of cytokines such as interleukin 1 (IL1) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), which induce net matrix depletion. IGF 1 induced a dose-dependent 2.5-fold stimulation of proteoglycan synthesis, with a half-maximal dose of 25 ng/ml. A similar relative increase occurred in response to IGF 1 (10-100 ng/ml) in cartilage cultured also with IL1 or TNF (5-500 pM). There was no detectable qualitative change in the average molecular size or charge of the aggregating proteoglycan synthesized by explants exposed to IGF 1 alone or with IL1 or TNF. The increased production of prostaglandin E2, which is initiated when IL1 or TNF bind to the chondrocytes, was the same in the presence or absence of IGF 1. The time taken for 50% of pre-labelled proteoglycan to be released from the explants (t1/2) increased in the presence of IGF 1 (100 ng/ml) from 21 to 32 days in control cultures and from 8 to 26 days in cartilage cultured with IL1 (50 pM). It is concluded that IGF 1 enhances the synthesis of aggregating proteoglycan in cartilage exposed to cytokines and can directly decrease both the basal and the cytokine-stimulated degradation of proteoglycan in cartilage.

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