Dr Anna De Palma

Research Fellow

Academic and research departments

School of Veterinary Medicine.


Anna De Palma, Giovanna Nalesso (2021)WNT Signalling in Osteoarthritis and Its Pharmacological Targeting, In: Handbook of experimental pharmacology269337pp. 337-356

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a highly disabling musculoskeletal condition affecting millions of people worldwide. OA is characterised by progressive destruction and irreversible morphological changes of joint tissues and architecture. At molecular level, de-regulation of several pathways contributes to the disruption of tissue homeostasis in the joint. Overactivation of the WNT/β-catenin signalling pathway has been associated with degenerative processes in OA. However, the multiple layers of complexity in the modulation of the signalling and the still insufficient knowledge of the specific molecular drivers of pathogenetic mechanisms have made difficult the pharmacological targeting of this pathway for therapeutic purposes. This review aims to provide an overview of the WNT/β-catenin signalling in OA with a particular focus on its role in the articular cartilage. Pathway components whose targeting showed therapeutic potential will be highlighted and described. A specific section will be dedicated to Lorecivivint, the first inhibitor of the β-catenin-dependent pathway currently in phase III clinical trial as OA-modifying agent.

Giovanna Nalesso, Anne-Sophie Thorup, Suzanne Elizabeth Eldridge, Anna De Palma, Amanpreet Kaur, Kiran Peddireddi, Kevin Blighe, Sharmila Rana, Bryony Stott, Tonia Louise Vincent, Bethan Lynne Thomas, Jessica Bertrand, Joanna Sherwood, Antonella Fioravanti, Costantino Pitzalis, Francesco Dell'Accio (2021)Calcium calmodulin kinase II activity is required for cartilage homeostasis in osteoarthritis, In: Scientific reports11(1)5682pp. 5682-5682 Springer Nature

WNT ligands can activate several signalling cascades of pivotal importance during development and regenerative processes. Their de-regulation has been associated with the onset of different diseases. Here we investigated the role of the WNT/Calcium Calmodulin Kinase II (CaMKII) pathway in osteoarthritis. We identified Heme Oxygenase I (HMOX1) and Sox-9 as specific markers of the WNT/CaMKII signalling in articular chondrocytes through a microarray analysis. We showed that the expression of the activated form of CaMKII, phospho-Ca MKII, was increased in human and murine osteoarthritis and the expression of HMOX1 was accordingly reduced, demonstrating the activation of the pathway during disease progression. To elucidate its function, we administered the CaMKII inhibitor KN93 to mice in which osteoarthritis was induced by resection of the anterior horn of the medial meniscus and of the medial collateral ligament in the knee joint. Pharmacological blockade of CaMKII exacerbated cartilage damage and bone remodelling. Finally, we showed that CaMKII inhibition in articular chondrocytes upregulated the expression of matrix remodelling enzymes alone and in combination with Interleukin 1. These results suggest an important homeostatic role of the WNT/CaMKII signalling in osteoarthritis which could be exploited in the future for therapeutic purposes.

Cintia Scucuglia Heluany, Anna De Palma, Nicholas James Day, Sandra Helena Poliselli Farsky, Giovanna Nalesso (2023)Hydroquinone, an Environmental Pollutant, Affects Cartilage Homeostasis through the Activation of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Pathway, In: Cells (Basel, Switzerland)12(5)690 MDPI

Exposure to environmental pollutants has a proven detrimental impact on different aspects of human health. Increasing evidence has linked pollution to the degeneration of tissues in the joints, although through vastly uncharacterised mechanisms. We have previously shown that exposure to hydroquinone (HQ), a benzene metabolite that can be found in motor fuels and cigarette smoke, exacerbates synovial hypertrophy and oxidative stress in the synovium. To further understand the impact of the pollutant on joint health, here we investigated the effect of HQ on the articular cartilage. HQ exposure aggravated cartilage damage in rats in which inflammatory arthritis was induced by injection of Collagen type II. Cell viability, cell phenotypic changes and oxidative stress were quantified in primary bovine articular chondrocytes exposed to HQ in the presence or absence of IL-1β. HQ stimulation downregulated phenotypic markers genes SOX-9 and Col2a1, whereas it upregulated the expression of the catabolic enzymes MMP-3 and ADAMTS5 at the mRNA level. HQ also reduced proteoglycan content and promoted oxidative stress alone and in synergy with IL-1β. Finally, we showed that HQ-degenerative effects were mediated by the activation of the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor. Together, our findings describe the harmful effects of HQ on articular cartilage health, providing novel evidence surrounding the toxic mechanisms of environmental pollutants underlying the onset of articular diseases.