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Tissue Eng. 2004 Jul-Aug;10(7-8):1214-23.

Expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin by and contraction of cells derived from synovium.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Cells derived from synovium have drawn interest as donor cells for articular cartilage tissue engineering because they have been implicated in certain cartilage repair processes in vivo and the chondrogenic potential of the cells has been demonstrated in vitro. Studies have demonstrated that several other types of musculoskeletal connective tissue cells--including chondrocytes, fibrochondrocytes, ligament fibroblasts and osteoblasts, and mesenchymal stem cells can express the gene for the contractile actin isoform, alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA), and can contract analogs of extracellular matrix in vitro. Although the physiological roles of SMA-enabled contraction of these cells have yet to be established, cell-mediated contraction of scaffolds employed for tissue engineering can alter the pore diameter of the matrix and distort its overall shape, and thus needs to be addressed. Toward this goal, the objective of this study was to investigate the expression of SMA by synovial cells and to evaluate their contraction of collagen-glycosaminoglycan (GAG) scaffolds. Synovial membranes obtained from the knees (stifle joints) of six adult dogs were evaluated for the presence of SMA by immunohistochemistry. Cells isolated from the synovial tissue were expanded through seven passages in monolayer culture, with samples from each passage allocated for Western blot analysis of SMA. Cells from passage 4 were seeded into porous type I collagen-GAG matrices and cultured for 4 weeks. Synovial cell-mediated contraction of the scaffolds was determined by measuring the diameters of the cell-seeded scaffolds and nonseeded controls every other day. Synovium-derived cells cultured as micropellets or in collagen-GAG matrices were incubated in chondrogenic medium with and without fetal bovine serum and evaluated for chondrogenesis by type II collagen immunohistochemistry. Immunohistochemistry revealed the presence of SMA in some cells (less than 10% of the cells) in the intimal layer of synovium from four of the five animals analyzed. Western blot analysis demonstrated a regular increase in the amount of SMA in the synovium-derived cells with passage number. Synovial cell-mediated contraction of the collagen-GAG scaffolds reached a value of 43% of the original diameter after 4 weeks, comparable to that found with other musculoskeletal cell types. Incubation of micropellet cultures of synovium-derived cells with chondrogenic medium revealed trace amounts of type II collagen production by immunohistochemistry. The findings of this study indicate that control of SMA-enabled contraction may be important when employing synovial cells for cartilage repair procedures, and warrant further investigation into the physiological role of SMA expression in synovial cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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