Spermidine rescues the deregulated autophagic response to oxidative stress of osteoarthritic chondrocytes

Stefania D'Adamo, Silvia Cetrullo, Serena Guidotti, Ylenia Silvestri, Manuela Minguzzi, Spartaco Santi, Luca Cattini, Giuseppe Filardo, Flavio Flamigni, Rosa Maria Borzì

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxidative stress (OS) contributes to Osteoarthritis (OA) pathogenesis and its effects are worsened by the impairment of homeostatic mechanisms such as autophagy in OA chondrocytes. Rescue of an efficient autophagic flux could therefore reduce the bulk of damaged molecules, and at the same time improve cell function and viability. As a promising dietary or intra-articular supplement to rescue autophagy in OA chondrocytes, we tested spermidine (SPD), known to induce autophagy and to reduce OS in several other cellular models. Chondrocytes were obtained from OA cartilage and seeded at high-density to keep their differentiated phenotype. The damaging effects of OS and the chondroprotective activity of SPD were assessed by evaluating the extent of cell death, oxidative DNA damage and caspase 3 activation. The autophagy promoting activity of SPD was evaluated by assessing pivotal autophagic effectors, i.e. Beclin-1 (BECN-1), microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 II (LC3-II) and p62. BECN-1 protein expression was significantly increased by SPD and reduced by H2O2 treatment. SPD also rescued the impaired autophagic flux consequent to H2O2 exposure by increasing mRNA and protein expression of LC3-II and p62. SPD induction of mitophagy was revealed by immunofluorescent co-localization of LC3-II and TOM20. The key protective role of autophagy was confirmed by the loss of SPD chondroprotection upon autophagy-related gene 5 (ATG5) silencing. Significant SPD tuning of the H2O2-dependent induction of degradative (MMP-13) inflammatory (iNOS, COX-2) and hypertrophy markers (Runx 2 and VEGF) was revealed by Real Time PCR and pointed at the SPD ability of reducing NF-κB activation through autophagy induction. Conversely, blockage of autophagy led to parallel increases of oxidative markers and p65 nuclear translocation. SPD also increased the proliferation of slow-proliferating primary cultures. Taken together, our findings highlight the chondroprotective, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of SPD and suggest that the protection afforded by SPD against OS is exerted through the rescue of the autophagic flux.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-172
Number of pages14
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Early online dateApr 16 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Autophagy
  • Chondrocytes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Oxidative stress
  • Spermidine


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