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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 9;5(4):e10113. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010113.

Identification of SOX9 interaction sites in the genome of chondrocytes.

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Department of Genetics, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas, Houston, Texas, United States of America.



Our previous work has provided strong evidence that the transcription factor SOX9 is completely needed for chondrogenic differentiation and cartilage formation acting as a "master switch" in this differentiation. Heterozygous mutations in SOX9 cause campomelic dysplasia, a severe skeletal dysmorphology syndrome in humans characterized by a generalized hypoplasia of endochondral bones. To obtain insights into the logic used by SOX9 to control a network of target genes in chondrocytes, we performed a ChIP-on-chip experiment using SOX9 antibodies.


The ChIP DNA was hybridized to a microarray, which covered 80 genes, many of which are involved in chondrocyte differentiation. Hybridization peaks were detected in a series of cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) genes including Col2a1, Col11a2, Aggrecan and Cdrap as well as in genes for specific transcription factors and signaling molecules. Our results also showed SOX9 interaction sites in genes that code for proteins that enhance the transcriptional activity of SOX9. Interestingly, a strong SOX9 signal was also observed in genes such as Col1a1 and Osx, whose expression is strongly down regulated in chondrocytes but is high in osteoblasts. In the Col2a1 gene, in addition to an interaction site on a previously identified enhancer in intron 1, another strong interaction site was seen in intron 6. This site is free of nucleosomes specifically in chondrocytes suggesting an important role of this site on Col2a1 transcription regulation by SOX9.


Our results provide a broad understanding of the strategies used by a "master" transcription factor of differentiation in control of the genetic program of chondrocytes.

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