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Exp Cell Res. 1996 Nov 25;229(1):126-36.

Syndecan-3 and the control of chondrocyte proliferation during endochondral ossification.

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Department of Anatomy-Histology, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6003, USA.


During endochondral ossification, chondrocytes progress through several stages of maturation before they are replaced by bone cells. Chondrocyte proliferation, the first step in this complex multistage process, is strictly controlled both spatially and temporally but its underlying mechanisms of regulation remain unclear. In this study we asked whether chondrocytes produce syndecan-3, a cell surface receptor for growth factors such as fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2), and whether syndecan-3 may play a role in proliferation during chondrocyte maturation. We found that proliferating immature cartilage from chick embryo tibia and sternum contained significant amounts of syndecan-3 mRNA, whereas mature hypertrophic cartilage contained markedly lower transcript levels. Immunohistochemical analyses on sections of Day 18 chick embryo tibia revealed that syndecan-3 was spatially restricted and indeed detectable only in immature proliferating chondrocytes in the top zone of growth plate. These syndecan-3-rich proliferating chondrocytes lay beneath developing articular chondrocytes rich in their typical matrix protein tenascin-C, resulting in a striking boundary between these two populations of chondrocytes. Immature proliferating chondrocyte populations reared in growth-promoting culture conditions displayed strong continuous syndecan-3 gene expression; upon induction of maturation by vitamin C treatment, syndecan-3 gene expression was markedly down-regulated. Treatment with FGF-2 for 24 h stimulated both syndecan-3 gene expression and chondrocyte proliferation; this growth stimulation was counteracted by cotreatment with heparinase I or III. The results of the study indicate that syndecan-3 participates in the maturation of chondrocytes during endochondral ossification and represents a regulator of the proliferative phase of this multistage process.

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