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J Cell Physiol. 2007 Oct;213(1):1-8.

Regulation of chondrocyte differentiation by the actin cytoskeleton and adhesive interactions.

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  • 1CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Chondrocyte differentiation is a multi-step process characterized by successive changes in cell morphology and gene expression. In addition to tight regulation by numerous soluble factors, these processes are controlled by adhesive events. During the early phase of the chondrocyte life cycle, cell-cell adhesion through molecules such as N-cadherin and neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) is required for differentiation of mesenchymal precursor cells to chondrocytes. At later stages, for example in growth plate chondrocytes, adhesion signaling from extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins through integrins and other ECM receptors such as the discoidin domain receptor (DDR) 2 (a collagen receptor) and Annexin V is necessary for normal chondrocyte proliferation and hypertrophy. Cell-matrix interactions are also important for chondrogenesis, for example through the activity of CD44, a receptor for Hyaluronan and collagens. The roles of several signaling molecules involved in adhesive signaling, such as integrin-linked kinase (ILK) and Rho GTPases, during chondrocyte differentiation are beginning to be understood, and the actin cytoskeleton has been identified as a common target of these adhesive pathways. Complete elucidation of the pathways connecting adhesion receptors to downstream effectors and the mechanisms integrating adhesion signaling with growth factor- and hormone-induced pathways is required for a better understanding of physiological and pathological skeletal development.

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