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J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Jun;25(6):1267-81. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.30.

Sorting of growth plate chondrocytes allows the isolation and characterization of cells of a defined differentiation status.

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Murdoch Children's Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


Axial growth of long bones occurs through a coordinated process of growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation. This maturation of chondrocytes is reflected in a zonal change in gene expression and cell morphology from resting to proliferative, prehypertrophic, and hypertrophic chondrocytes of the growth plate followed by ossification. A major experimental limitation in understanding growth plate biology and pathophysiology is the lack of a robust technique to isolate cells from the different zones, particularly from small animals. Here, we report on a new strategy for separating distinct chondrocyte populations from mouse growth plates. By transcriptome profiling of microdissected zones of growth plates, we identified novel, zone-specific cell surface markers and used these for flow cytometry and immunomagnetic cell separation to quantify, enrich, and characterize chondrocytes populations with respect to their differentiation status. This approach provides a novel platform to study cartilage development and characterize mouse growth plate chondrocytes to reveal unique cellular phenotypes of the distinct subpopulations within the growth plate.

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