Production of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) by cultured human dermal and synovial fibroblasts

George R. Dodge, David Hawkins, Eric Boesler, Lynn Sakai, Sergio A. Jimenez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objective: Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) is a large disulfide-linked pentameric protein. Each of its five subunits is approximately 100,000 Da in molecular weight. COMP was originally identified and characterized in cartilage and it has been considered a marker of cartilage metabolism because it is currently thought not to be present in other joint tissues, except for tendon. To confirm the tissue specificity of COMP expression we examined cultured human dermal fibroblasts, human foreskin fibroblasts, and normal human synovial cells for the synthesis of COMP in culture. Method: Normal synovial cells and normal human dermal foreskin fibroblasts were isolated from the corresponding tissues by sequential enzymatic digestions and cultured in media containing 10% fetal bovine serum until confluent. During the final 24 h of culture, the cells were labeled with 35S-methionine and 35S-cysteine in serum- and cysteine/methionine- free medium. The newly synthesized COMP molecules were immunoprecipitated from the culture media with a COMP-specific polyclonal antiserum, or with monoclonal antibodies or affinity-purified COMP antibodies. The immunoprecipitated COMP was analyzed by electrophoresis in 5.5% polyacrylamide gels. For other experiments, synovial cells cultured from the synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis(RA) and osteoarthritis(OA) were similarly examined. Results: A comparison of the amounts of COMP produced by each cell type (corrected for the DNA content) revealed that synovial cells produced ≥ 9 times more COMP than chondrocytes or dermal fibroblasts. COMP could be easily detected by immunoprecipitation in all cell types. Electrophoretic analysis revealed a distinct band with an apparent MW of 115 120 kDa in samples from each of the three cell types, regardless of the antibody used. COMP expression in cultures of synoviocytes derived from OA and RA patients showed that OA and RA synovial cells produced similar amounts of monomeric COMP of identical size to those COMP monomers produced by normal synovial cells. The addition of TGF-β to these cultures resulted in an increase in COMP production in normal, OA and RA synovial cells (45, 116 and 115% respectively). Conclusion: These studies demonstrate that substantial amounts of COMP are produced by several mesenchymal cells including synoviocytes and dermal fibroblasts. These findings raise important concerns regarding the utility of measurements of COMP levels in serum or in synovial fluid as markers of articular cartilage degradation because of the likelihood that a substantial proportion of COMP or COMP fragments present in serum or synovial fluid may be produced by cells other than articular chondrocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-440
Number of pages6
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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