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Epidemiological studies have shown an association between hypertension and knee osteoarthritis (OA). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether activation of the renin–angiotensin system (RAS) can aggravate mechanical loading-induced knee OA in mice. Eight-week-old male Tsukuba hypertensive mice (THM) and C57BL/6 mice were divided into running and non-running groups. Mice in the running group were forced to run (25 m/min, 30 min/day, 5 days/week) on a treadmill. All mice in the four groups (n=10 in each group) were euthanized after 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 weeks of running or natural breeding. Cartilage degeneration in the left knees was histologically evaluated using the modified Mankin score. Expression of Col X, MMP-13, angiotensin type 1 receptor (AT1R), and AT2R was examined immunohistochemically. To study the effects of stimulation of the AT1R in chondrocytes by mechanical loading and/or Angiotensin II (AngII) on transduction of intracellular signals, phosphorylation levels of JNK and Src were measured in bovine articular chondrocytes cultured in three-dimensional agarose scaffolds. After 4 weeks, the mean Mankin score for the lateral femoral condylar cartilage was significantly higher in the THM running group than in the C57BL/6 running group and non-running groups. AT1R and AT2R expression was not detected at 0 weeks in any group but was noted after 4 weeks in the THM running group. AT1R expression was also noted at 8 weeks in the C57BL/6 running group. The expression levels of AT1R, COL X, and MMP-13 in chondrocytes were significantly higher in the THM running group than in the control groups. Positive significant correlations were noted between the Mankin score and the rate of AT1R-immunopositive cells, between the rates of AT1R- and Col X-positive cells, and between the rates of AT1R- and AT2R-positive cells. The phosphorylation level of JNK was increased by cyclic compression loading or addition of AngII to the cultured chondrocytes and was reversed by pretreatment with an AT1R blocker. A synergistic effect on JNK phosphorylation was observed between compression loading and AngII addition. Transgene activation of renin and angiotensinogen aggravated mechanical load-induced knee OA in mice. These findings suggest that AT1R expression in chondrocytes is associated with early knee OA and plays a role in the progression of cartilage degeneration. The RAS may be a common molecular mechanism involved in the pathogenesis of hypertension and knee OA.