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In Vitro Cell Dev Biol. 1989 Jul;25(7):659-68.

Expression of the human chondrocyte phenotype in vitro.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Medical School, Houston 77225.


We report a culture scheme in which human epiphyseal chondrocytes lose their differentiated phenotype in monolayer and subsequently reexpress the phenotype in an agarose gel. The scheme is based on a method using rabbit chondrocytes. Culture in monolayer allowed small quantities of cells to be amplified and provided a starting point to study expression of the differentiated human chondrocyte phenotype. The cells cultured in monolayer produced type I procollagen, fibronectin, and small noncartilaginous proteoglycans. Subsequent culture in agarose was associated with the acquisition of typical chondrocyte ultrastructural features and the synthesis of type II collagen and cartilage-specific proteoglycans. The switch from the nonchondrocyte to the differentiated chondrocyte phenotype occurred under these conditions between 1 and 2 wk of agarose culture and was not necessarily homogeneous throughout a culture. This culture technique will facilitate direct investigation of human disorders of cartilage that have been addressed in the past by alternative approaches.

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