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Arch Oral Biol. 1999 Jun;44(6):489-97.

Maintenance of regional histodifferentiation patterns and a spatially restricted expression of type X collagen in rat Meckel's cartilage explants in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Orthodontics, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The major, central portion of Meckel's cartilage undergoes fibrous transformation and contributes to the sphenomandibular ligament, whereas its distal end undergoes endochondral ossification ultimately giving rise to inner-ear ossicles. This regional histodifferentiation of Meckel's cartilage is known to be associated with the spatially restricted expression of type X collagen. The objective of this study was to determine if this unique histodifferentiation is regulated by local environmental factors or by a preprogrammed genetic mechanism. Meckel's cartilage, and condylar cartilage used for comparison, were isolated from 17-day-old rat embryos and from newborn rats, respectively. The cartilage explants were maintained in vitro for 50 days with or without supplementation with 10% fetal bovine serum. When the explants were cultured under serum-free conditions, well-regulated cartilage development was observed. Expression of type X collagen, a differentiation marker for hypertrophic cartilage, was restricted to the distal end of Meckel's cartilage, whereas type II and IX collagens were found uniformly along the entire explant. Matrix calcification was examined histochemically using alizarin red S staining and found to be restricted to the distal end of Meckel's cartilage. Both Meckel's and condylar cartilage cultured with 10% fetal bovine serum developed unregulated dysmorphogenesis. These data suggest that, although Meckel's cartilage has an intrinsic potential to differentiate to its terminal stage, external regulatory factors can significantly influence its normal development at the molecular level.

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