Recently we demonstrated that ablation of the DNA methyltransferase enzyme, Dnmt3b, resulted in catabolism and progression of osteoarthritis (OA) in murine articular cartilage through a mechanism involving increased mitochondrial respiration. In this study, we identify 4-aminobutyrate aminotransferase (Abat) as a downstream target of Dnmt3b. Abat is an enzyme that metabolizes γ-aminobutyric acid to succinate, a key intermediate in the tricarboxylic acid cycle. We show that Dnmt3b binds to the Abat promoter, increases methylation of a conserved CpG sequence just upstream of the transcriptional start site, and inhibits Abat expression. Dnmt3b deletion in articular chondrocytes results in reduced methylation of the CpG sequence in the Abat promoter, which subsequently increases expression of Abat. Increased Abat expression in chondrocytes leads to enhanced mitochondrial respiration and elevated expression of catabolic genes. Overexpression of Abat in murine knee joints via lentiviral injection results in accelerated cartilage degradation following surgical induction of OA. In contrast, lentiviral-based knockdown of Abat attenuates the expression of IL-1β–induced catabolic genes in primary murine articular chondrocytes in vitro and also protects against murine articular cartilage degradation in vivo. Strikingly, treatment with the FDA-approved small-molecule Abat inhibitor, vigabatrin, significantly prevents the development of injury-induced OA in mice. In summary, these studies establish Abat as an important new target for therapies to prevent OA.


Jie Shen, Cuicui Wang, Jun Ying, Taotao Xu, Audrey McAlinden, Regis J. O’Keefe


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