Ion transport in chondrocytes: membrane transporters involved in intracellular ion homeostasis and the regulation of cell volume, free [Ca2+] and pH


  • A. Mobasheri
  • R. Mobasheri
  • M. J.O. Francis
  • E. Trujillo
  • D. Álvarez de la Rosa
  • P. Martín Vasallo


chondrocyte, cartilage, ion transport, pH regulation, Na , K -ATPase, Nat/H exchange, Ca4 -ATPase


Chondrocytes exist in an unusual and variable ionic and osmotic environment in the extracellular matrix of cartilage and are responsible for maintaining the delicate equilibrium between extracellular matrix synthesis and degradation. The mechanical performance of cartilage relies on the biochemical properties of the matrix. Alterations to the ionic and osmotic extracellular environment of chondrocytes have been shown to influence the volume, intracellular pH and ionic content of the cells, which in turn modify the synthesis and degradation of extracellular matrix macromolecules. Physiological ion homeostasis is fundamental to the routine functioning of cartilage and the factors that control the integrity of this highly evolved and specialized tissue. Ion transport in cartilage is relatively unexplored and the biochemical properties and molecular identity of membrane transport mechanisms employed by chondrocytes in the control of intracellular ion concentrations and pH is not fully defined and this review focuses on these processes. Chondrocytes have been shown to express voltage and stretch activated ion channels, passive exchangers and ATP dependent ion pumps. In addition, recent studies of transport systems in chondrocytes have demonstrated the presence of isozyme diversity that includes Na+/H+ exchange (NHE1, NHE3), Na+, K+-ATPase (several isoforms) and others each of which possess considerably different kinetic properties and modes of regulation. This multitude of isozyme diversity indicates the highly specialized handling of ions and protons in order to accomplish a fine regulation of their transmembrane fluxes. The complexities of these transport systems and their patterns of isoform expression underscore the subtlety of ion homeostasis and pH regulation in normal cartilage. Perturbations in these mechanisms may affect the physiological turnover of cartilage and thus increase the susceptibility to degenerative joint disease.




Invited Reviews