Biologic effects of calcium-containing crystals

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Calcium-containing crystals can cause the degeneration of articular tissues in two separate pathways. In the direct pathway, crystals directly induce synoviocytes to proliferate and produce metalloproteinases and prostaglandins. The other pathway, the paracrine pathway, involves the interaction between crystals and macrophages/monocytes, which leads to the synthesis and release of cytokines, which can reinforce the action of crystals on synoviocytes and/or induce chondrocytes to secrete enzymes and which eventually causes the degeneration of articular tissues. The purpose of this review is to highlight the recent findings of the biologic effect of these crystals. Recent findings: In the past few years, major advances in the understanding of the biologic effect of crystals and the signal transduction pathway of crystal-induced cell activation offer a unique opportunity to examine the role of crystal in osteoarthritis and cartilage degeneration. Summary: Evidence for a causal role of crystals in cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis is primarily inferential and is based on correlative data. Clinical observations indicate that exaggerated and uniquely distributed cartilage degeneration is associated with these deposits. Measurements of putative markers of cartilage breakdown suggest that these crystals magnify the degenerative process. Studies have shown two potential mechanisms by which crystals cause degeneration. These involve the stimulation of mitogenesis in synovial fibroblasts and the secretion of metalloproteinases by cells that subject these crystals to phagocytosis. New information on how crystals form and how they exert their biologic effects will help in the design of an effective therapeutic approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-340
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Rheumatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2005


  • Biologic effects
  • Calcium-containing crystals
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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