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J Endocrinol. 2006 Apr;189(1):27-36.

Depletion of resting zone chondrocytes during growth plate senescence.

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  • 1Developmental Endocrinology Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, CRC, Room 1-3330, 10 Center Drive, MSC 1103, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.

Abstract

With age, the growth plate undergoes senescent changes that cause linear bone growth to slow and finally cease. Based on previous indirect evidence, we hypothesized that this senescent decline occurs because growth plate stem-like cells, located in the resting zone, have a finite proliferative capacity that is gradually depleted. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that the proliferation rate in rabbit resting zone chondrocytes (assessed by continuous 5-bromo-2'-deoxy-uridine labeling) decreases with age, as does the number of resting zone chondrocytes per area of growth plate. Glucocorticoid excess slows growth plate senescence. To explain this effect, we hypothesized that glucocorticoid inhibits resting zone chondrocyte proliferation, thus conserving their proliferative capacity. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that dexamethasone treatment decreased the proliferation rate of rabbit resting zone chondrocytes and slowed the numerical depletion of these cells. Estrogen is known to accelerate growth plate senescence. However, we found that estradiol cypionate treatment slowed resting zone chondrocyte proliferation. Our findings support the hypotheses that growth plate senescence is caused by qualitative and quantitative depletion of stem-like cells in the resting zone and that growth-inhibiting conditions, such as glucocorticoid excess, slow senescence by slowing resting zone chondrocyte proliferation and slowing the numerical depletion of these cells, thereby conserving the proliferative capacity of the growth plate. We speculate that estrogen might accelerate senescence by a proliferation-independent mechanism, or by increasing the loss of proliferative capacity per cell cycle.

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