, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 659-668

Expression of the human chondrocyte phenotype in vitro

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We report a culture scheme in which human epiphyseal chondrocytes lose their differentiated phenotype in monolayer and subsequently reexpress the phenotype in an agarose gel. The scheme is based on a method using rabbit chondrocytes. Culture in monolayer allowed small quantities of cells to be amplified and provided a starting point to study expression of the differentiated human chondrocyte phenotype. The cells cultured in monolayer produced type I procollagen, fibronectin, and small noncartilaginous proteoglycans. Subsequent culture in agarose was associated with the acquisition of typical chondrocyte ultrastructural features and the synthesis of type II collagen and cartilage-specific proteoglycans. The switch from the nonchondrocyte to the differented chondrocyte phenotype occurred under these conditions between 1 and 2 wk of agarose culture and was not necessarily homogeneous throughout a culture. This culture technique will facilitate direct investigation of human disorders of cartilage that have been addressed in the past by alternative approaches.

This research is supported in part by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, (HD 20691) Bethesda, MD, and Shriners of North America (15953).