, Volume 204, Issue 1, pp 77-94

Bone formation in cartilage produced by transplanted epiphyseal chondrocytes

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Chondrocytes were isolated from rat epiphyseal cartilage, cultured in vitro, and exposed to exogenous tracers which accumulated in their lysosomes. The cells were then injected into the posterior tibial muscle of animals from the same outbred strain, where they reconstructed calcifying hyaline cartilage. The mineralization of the tissue was followed by ingrowth of blood capillaries from the host bed. Macrophage-like cells surrounding the vessels phagocytized degenerated chondrocytes and unmineralized matrix, whereas multinucleated chondroclasts removed some of the mineralized cartilage matrix. Mesenchyme-like cells accompanying the invading vessels attached to the remaining septa of calcified cartilage matrix and developed into osteoblasts depositing bone matrix on the surface of these septa. The apparent lack of inherent tracer labeling of the lysosomes in the different bone cells indicate that they were derived from the host. No signs of transformation of chondrocytes into bone cells were observed.

When isolated rat epiphyseal chondrocytes were injected into the wall of the hamster cheek pouch, calcifying cartilage was reconstructed without signs of subsequent ossification. Transplantation of cartilage reconstructed in the hamster into the dorsal muscles of rats was, however, followed by formation of bone by a sequence analogous to that described above. Such an osteogenetic response was also obtained when the cartilage had been devitalized before transplantation.

These experiments show that calcified cartilage, developing in or grafted into an intramuscular site, is able to induce and serve as a substrate for endochondral bone formation, similar to that occurring during normal development. They further indicate that bone induction by calcified cartilage does not require the presence of living chondrocytes.

Financial support was obtained from the Swedish Medical Research Council (proj. no. 03355), the King Gustaf V 80th Birthday Fund, and from the funds of Karolinska Institutet. The authors thank Karin Blomgren for technical assistance and Inger Lohmander-Åhrén and Eva Pettersson for secretarial help
On leave from the Department of Histology and Embryology, Medical Academy, Warsaw, Poland