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J Anat. 1999 May;194 ( Pt 4):519-24.

Immunolocalisation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in human neonatal growth plate cartilage.

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University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, UK.


Angiogenesis is essential for the replacement of cartilage by bone during growth and repair. In order to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms regulating vascular invasion at sites of endochondral ossification we have investigated the expression of the endothelial cell-specific mitogen, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), by chondrocytes in human neonatal growth plates. VEGF was absent from chondrocytes in the resting zone and only weakly expressed by occasional chondrocytes in the proliferating region. In the hypertrophic zone the number of chondrocytes stained and the intensity of staining for VEGF increased with chondrocyte hypertrophy, maximum expression of VEGF being observed in chondrocytes in the lower hypertrophic and mineralised regions of the cartilage. These observations provide the first demonstration of the presence of VEGF in situ in developing human bone and are consistent with in vitro observations demonstrating the upregulation of proangiogenic growth factor production with increasing chondrocyte hypertrophy. The presence of numerous small blood vessels and vascular structures in the subchondral region where VEGF expression was maximal indicates that VEGF produced by hypertrophic chondrocytes may play a key role in the regulation of vascular invasion of the growth plate.

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