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Bone. 2004 Jul;35(1):96-107.

ACTH enhances chondrogenesis in multipotential progenitor cells and matrix production in chondrocytes.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, NY 11501, USA.


The association of melanocortin peptide overproduction with enhanced linear growth prompted the current investigation of adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) effects on multipotential chondroprogenitor populations and committed chondrocytes in culture. Two multipotential progenitor populations, rat bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) and the clonal multipotential cell line RCJ3.1, and two committed chondrocyte populations, resting chondrocytes (RC) isolated from the rib of young rats and the chondrocyte restricted cell line RCJ3.1C5.18 (C5.18), were cultured in differentiation medium plus or minus ACTH. Alcian blue stain was used to quantitate proteoglycan matrix production in all populations treated with a range of ACTH concentrations. Changes in proliferation due to ACTH treatment of all cell types were measured using 3H-thymidine incorporation. Differences in matrix production of ACTH-treated and -untreated RC and C5.18 cells were determined using 3H-proline incorporation. Relative transcript expression of the chondrocyte matrix proteins collagen type II (COLL II) and aggrecan (AGR) in treated and untreated cells was analyzed by Northern blot. Collagen type X (COLL X), a marker of hypertrophic differentiation, was measured in committed chondrocytic populations. Western analysis was used to detect the melanocortin-3 receptor (MC3-R), which was a suspected mediator of the ACTH signal. Matrix deposition was dose-dependently increased by ACTH in all cell populations as measured by alcian blue stain. ACTH treatment increased proliferation in multipotential progenitor populations (BMSC and RCJ3.1) while proliferation was decreased in committed chondrocyte populations (RC and C5.18). Total protein and total cell-associated collagen production were significantly increased by ACTH treatment in committed populations. Relative COLL II and AGR transcript expressions were significantly increased in both the RC- and C5.18-committed population and very significantly increased in the progenitor populations. Additionally, collagen type X expression was detected earlier and in greater abundance in ACTH-treated committed chondrocyte populations. Finally, the melanocortin-3 receptor was detected in all examined cell types by Western blot. These data show that ACTH promotes the development of the chondrocyte phenotype from multipotential mesenchymal progenitor populations and increases matrix production and differentiation of committed chondrocytes. These findings, together with the detection of the MC3-R in all of these cell types, indicate a role for the melanocortin system in chondrogenesis.

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