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J Biol Chem. 1989 Dec 15;264(35):21346-55.

Induction of mineral deposition by primary cultures of chicken growth plate chondrocytes in ascorbate-containing media. Evidence of an association between matrix vesicles and collagen.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of South Carolina, Columbia 29208.


A serum-free primary culture system for chicken growth plate chondrocytes has been developed which consistently undergoes mineral deposition. Upon attainment of confluency, the chondrocytes develop locally into multilayer cellular nodules leading to matrix calcification. Mineralization first occurs in matrix vesicles (MV) that are abundant in the extraterritorial matrix between the hypertrophic cells. Studies with 45Ca reveal that significant accumulation of Ca2+ occurs as early as day 12, continuing progressively throughout the culture period. By day 24, the nodules become densely calcified. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy reveals the mineral to be similar to apatite, with features essentially identical to those of mineral formed by MV in vitro. The presence of ascorbate is critical to the culture system; in its absence, calcification is rarely observed. Ascorbate stimulates MV formation and synthesis of cellular protein, alkaline phosphatase, and especially types II and X collagens. In addition, there is strong evidence that the types II and X collagens are associated with MV. 1) Electron microscopy reveals MV embedded in a type II collagenous network; 2) Western blots of sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of MV using monospecific antibodies to types X and II collagen indicate that both collagens are present in specific MV fractions; 3) sucrose gradient purification of MV does not remove associated collagens; 4) graded salt extraction selectively releases type II collagen from MV; and 5) incubation of radiolabeled types II and X collagens with MV leads to their cosedimentation upon subsequent centrifugation. Taken together, the data suggest that coordinated synthesis of the collagens, alkaline phosphatase, MV formation, and Ca2+ accumulation by the cultures combine to induce mineral deposition in the multilayer nodules.

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