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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Apr 2;99(7):4397-402. Epub 2002 Mar 26.

In vitro cartilage formation by human adult stem cells from bone marrow stroma defines the sequence of cellular and molecular events during chondrogenesis.

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Center for Gene Therapy, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, 1430 Tulane Avenue SL-99, New Orleans, LA 70112-2699, USA.


One approach to resolving the complexities of chondrogenesis is to examine simplified systems in vitro. We analyzed cartilage differentiation by human adult stem cells from bone marrow stroma. Marrow stromal cells were cultured as micromass pellets for 21 days in serum-free medium containing transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta3, dexamethasone, and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-6. Assays for pulse-labeled [3H]DNA and for total DNA indicated that there was little proliferation and a progressive loss of cells in the pellets. There were continuous increases in mRNAs for cartilage matrix (proteoglycans and COL2, -9, -10, and -11), receptors [fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGFR2) and parathyroid hormone-related peptide receptor (PTHrP-R)], and transcription factors (SOX5, -6, and -9) as demonstrated by histochemical and microarray assays. Reverse transcription-PCR assays for 11 mRNAs confirmed the microarray data. SOX4, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and matrix metalloproteinase 14 (MMP14) increased at day 1 and decreased thereafter, suggesting roles early in chondrogenesis. Also, forkhead, CD10, and MMP13 increased up to day 7 and decreased thereafter, suggesting roles in an intermediate stage of chondrogenesis. In addition, two collagens (COL3A1 and COL16A1), a signaling molecule (WNT11), a homeobox homolog (BAPX1), a receptor (IL-1R1), an IGFs modulator (IGFBP5), and a mettaloproteinase (MMP16) increased progressively up to about day 14, suggesting roles later in chondrogenesis. Our results indicate that the simplicity of the system makes it possible to define in detail the cellular and molecular events during chondrogenesis.

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