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J Orthop Res. 2012 Dec;30(12):1886-97. doi: 10.1002/jor.22166. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Matrix molecule influence on chondrocyte phenotype and proteoglycan 4 expression by alginate-embedded zonal chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells.

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Fischell Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland, 3238 Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Articular cartilage resists load and provides frictionless movement at joint surfaces. The tissue is organized into the superficial, middle, deep, and calcified zones throughout its depth, each which serve distinct functions. Proteoglycan 4 (PRG4), found in the superficial zone, is a critical component of the joint's lubricating mechanisms. Maintenance of both the chondrocyte and zonal chondrocyte phenotype remain challenges for in vitro culture and tissue engineering. Here we investigate the expression of PRG4 mRNA and protein by primary bovine superficial zone chondrocytes, middle/deep zone chondrocytes, and mesenchymal stem cells encapsulated in alginate hydrogels with hyaluronic acid (HA) and chondroitin sulfate (CS) additives. Chondrogenic phenotype and differentiation markers are evaluated by mRNA expression, histochemical, and immunohistochemical staining. Results show middle/deep cells express no measurable PRG4 mRNA by day 7. In contrast, superficial zone cells express elevated PRG4 mRNA throughout culture time. This expression can be significantly enhanced up to 15-fold by addition of both HA and CS to scaffolds. Conversely, PRG4 mRNA expression is downregulated (up to 5-fold) by CS and HA in differentiating MSCs, possibly due to build up of entrapped protein. HA and CS demonstrate favorable effects on chondrogenesis by upregulating transcription factor Sox9 mRNA (up to 4.6-fold) and downregulating type I collagen mRNA (up to 18-fold). Results highlight the important relationship between matrix components and expression of critical lubricating proteins in an engineered cartilage scaffold.

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