Phenotypic stability of articular chondrocytes in vitro: The effects of culture models, bone morphogenetic protein 2, and serum supplementation

Matthew C. Stewart, Kathryn M. Saunders, Nancy Burton-Wurster, James N. MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Numerous in vitro culture models have been developed for the investigation of chondrocyte and cartilage biology. In this study, we investigated the stability of the chondrocytic phenotype in monolayer, aggregate, pellet, and explant culture models and assessed the effects of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) and serum supplementation on the phenotype in each model. Phenotypic effects were assessed by analyses of procollagen type II, aggrecan, (V+C)- fibronectin, and procollagen type I messenger RNA expression. In monolayer cultures, we noted a characteristic loss of procollagen type II and induction of procollagen type I expression. The aggregate and pellet culture models supported matrix protein gene expression profiles more reflective of in vivo levels. In explant cultures, expression of matrix protein genes was consistently depressed. Treatment with rhBMP-2 significantly increased the expression of procollagen type II and aggrecan in monolayer cultures; however, other models showed comparatively little response. Similarly, serum supplementation significantly down-regulated procollagen type II and aggrecan expression in monolayer cultures but had less effect on gene expression in the other models. Serum supplementation increased procollagen type I expression in monolayer and aggregate cultures. These results suggest that the influence of exogenous BMP-2 and serum on expression of chondrocyte- specific matrix protein genes is influenced by aspects of substrate attachments, cellular morphology, and/or cytoskeletal organization. Finally, the analyses of fibronectin expression suggest that V and C region alternative splicing in chondrocytes is linked to the establishment of a three-dimensional multicellular complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-174
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Articular chondrocyte
  • BMP-2
  • Cartilage
  • Matrix protein
  • Phenotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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