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Sonic hedgehog protein promotes proliferation and chondrogenic differentiation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in vitro

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Journal of Orthopaedic Science



Sonic hedgehog (Shh) protein is known to be an important signaling protein in early embryonic development. Also, Shh is involved in the induction of early cartilaginous differentiation of mesenchymal cells in the limb and in the spine.


The impact of Shh on adult stem cells, human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), was tested. The MSCs were treated either with recombinant Sonic hedgehog protein (r-Shh) or with transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1) as a positive control in vitro for 3 weeks. The effects on cartilaginous differentiation and proliferation were assayed.


MSCs when treated with either Shh or TGF-β1 showed expression of cartilage markers aggrecan, Sox9, CEP-68, and collagen type II and X within 3 weeks. Only r-Shh-treated cells showed a very strong cell proliferation and much higher BrdU incorporation in cell assay systems.


These are the first data that indicate an important role of Shh for the induction of cartilage production by MSCs in vitro.

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Warzecha, J., Göttig, S., Brüning, C. et al. Sonic hedgehog protein promotes proliferation and chondrogenic differentiation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in vitro. J Orthop Sci 11, 491–496 (2006).

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