BackgroundTo observe the sequence of chondrocyte degeneration and matrix degradation in the superficial surface cartilage of the tibial plateau in guinea pigs with spontaneous knee osteoarthritis (OA).MethodsSixty guinea pigs were euthanized at the ages of 8 months (n = 20),10 months (n = 20) and 12 months (n = 20) respectively. The degree of degeneration of the tibial plateau cartilage was evaluated by Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) score. The levels of Aggrecan,CollagenX,MMP-13 and Caspase-3 in the chondrocytes were detected by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The serum concentration of CTX-II was measured and compared. Western blot analysis was used to detect the levels of Aggrecan,CollagenX,MMP-13 and Caspase-3 in the cartilage tissue.ResultsThe OARSI scores both in 8-month-old group and 10-month-old group were lower than that in the 12-month-old group. The levels of Aggrecan in articular chondrocyte were higher both in 8-month-old group and 10-month-old group than that in 12-month-old group. The level of Collagen X increased with the age of guinea pigs. And the levels of MMP-13 and caspase-3 both in 10-month-old group and 12-month-old group were higher than those in 8-month-old group. The concentration of CTX-II in serum increased significantly in 12 months old group.ConclusionThe superficial chondrocytes of the tibial plateau first appeared to be hypertrophic and then apoptotic, and the matrix was further degraded when spontaneous knee osteoarthritis occurred in guinea pigs. Changes in the physiological state of chondrocytes are the initiating factors in the pathogenesis of knee OA.