Catch-up growth is associated with delayed senescence of the growth plate in rabbits

Pediatr Res. 2001 Nov;50(5):618-23. doi: 10.1203/00006450-200111000-00014.


In mammals, release from growth-inhibiting conditions results in catch-up growth. To explain this phenomenon, we proposed the following model: 1) The normal senescent decline in growth plate function depends not on age per se, but on the cumulative number of replications that growth plate chondrocytes have undergone. 2) Conditions that suppress growth plate chondrocyte proliferation therefore slow senescence. 3) After transient growth inhibition, growth plates are thus less senescent and hence show a greater growth rate than expected for age, resulting in catch-up growth. To test this model, we administered dexamethasone to growing rabbits to suppress linear growth. After stopping dexamethasone, catch-up growth occurred. In distal femoral growth plates of untreated controls, we observed a senescent decline in the growth rate and in the heights of the proliferative zone, hypertrophic zone, and total growth plate. During the period of catch-up growth, in the animals previously treated with dexamethasone, the senescent decline in all these variables was delayed. Prior treatment with dexamethasone also delayed epiphyseal fusion. These findings support our model that linear catch-up growth is caused, at least in part, by a delay in growth plate senescence.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Growth Plate / drug effects
  • Growth Plate / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Rabbits


  • Dexamethasone