Connective tissue growth factor/hypertrophic chondrocyte-specific gene product 24 (CTGF/Hcs24) is a multifunctional growth factor for chondrocytes, osteoblasts, and vascular endothelial cells. CTGF/Hcs24 promotes the proliferation and maturation of growth cartilage cells and articular cartilage cells in culture and hypertrophy of growth cartilage cells in culture. The factor also stimulates the proliferation and differentiation of cultured osteoblastic cells. Moreover, CTGF/Hcs24 promotes the adhesion, proliferation, and migration of vascular endothelial cells, as well as induces tube formation by the cells and strong angiogenesis in vivo. Because angiogenesis is critical for the replacement of cartilage with bone at the final stage of endochondral ossification and because gene expression of CTGF/Hcs24 predominates in hypertrophic chondrocytes in the physiological state, a major physiological role for this factor should be the promotion of the entire process of endochondral ossification, with the factor acting on the above three types of cells as a paracrine factor. Thus, CTGF/Hcs24 should be called "ecogenin: endochondral ossification genetic factor." In addition to hypertrophic chondrocytes, osteoblasts activated by various stimuli including wounding also express a significantly high level of CTGF/Hcs24. These findings in conjunction with in vitro findings about osteoblasts mentioned above suggest the involvement of CTGF/Hcs24 in intramembranous ossification and bone modeling/remodeling. Because angiogenesis is also critical for intramembranous ossification and bone remodeling, CTGF/Hcs24 expressed in endothelial cells activated by various stimuli including wounding may also play important roles in direct bone formation. In conclusion, although the most important physiological role of CTGF/Hcs24 is ecogenin action, the factors also play important roles in skeletal growth and modeling/remodeling via its direct action on osteoblasts under both physiological and pathological conditions.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.