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Am J Pathol. Jun 1997; 150(6): 2133–2141.
PMCID: PMC1858327

Phenotypic diversity of neoplastic chondrocytes and extracellular matrix gene expression in cartilaginous neoplasms.


Chondrocyte differentiation is characterized by distinct cellular phenotypes, which can be identified by specific extracellular matrix gene expression profiles. By applying in situ analysis on the mRNA and protein level in a series of benign and malignant human chondrogenic neoplasms, we were able to identify for the first time different phenotypes of neoplastic chondrocytes in vivo: 1) mature chondrocytes, which synthesized the characteristic cartilaginous extracellular tumor matrix, 2) cells resembling hypertrophic chondrocytes of the fetal growth plate, 3) cells resembling so-called dedifferentiated chondrocytes, and 4) well differentiated chondrocytic cells, which expressed type I collagen, indicating the presence of post-hypertrophic differentiated neoplastic chondrocytes. Chondrocytes exhibiting a range of phenotypes were found to be present in the same neoplasm. The different observed phenotypes, including the dedifferentiated phenotype, were in contrast to the anaplastic cells of high-grade chondrosarcomas. Comparison of expression data with tumor morphology revealed a relationship between the cellular phenotypes, the tumor matrix composition, and the matrix and cell morphology within the neoplasms. The distinctly different phenotypes of neoplastic chondrocytes are the basis of the characteristic high biochemical and morphological heterogeneity of chondroid neoplasms and shed light on their biological and clinical behavior.

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