Cyclic tensile strain and cyclic hydrostatic pressure differentially regulate expression of hypertrophic markers in primary chondrocytes

Bone. 2003 Oct;33(4):685-93. doi: 10.1016/s8756-3282(03)00242-4.


Endochondral ossification is regulated by many factors, including mechanical stimuli, which can suppress or accelerate chondrocyte maturation. Mathematical models of endochondral ossification have suggested that tension (or shear stress) can accelerate the formation of endochondral bone, while hydrostatic stress preserves the cartilage phenotype. The goal of this study was to test this hypothesis by examining the expression of hypertrophic chondrocyte markers (transcription factor Cbfa1, MMP-13, type X collagen, VEGF, CTGF) and cartilage matrix proteins under cyclic tension and cyclic hydrostatic pressure. Chondrocyte-seeded alginate constructs were exposed to one of the two loading modes for a period of 3 h per day for 3 days. Gene expression was analyzed using real-time RT-PCR. Cyclic tension upregulated the expression of Cbfa1, MMP-13, CTGF, type X collagen and VEGF and downregulated the expression of TIMP-1. Cyclic tension also upregulated the expression of type 2 collagen, COMP and lubricin, but did not change the expression of SOX9 and aggrecan. Cyclic hydrostatic pressure downregulated the expression of MMP-13 and type I collagen and upregulated expression of TIMP-1 compared to the unloaded controls. Hydrostatic pressure may slow chondrocyte differentiation and have a chondroprotective, anti-angiogenic influence on cartilage tissue. Our results suggest that cyclic tension activates the Cbfa1/MMP-13 pathway and increases the expression of terminal differentiation hypertrophic markers. Mammalian chondrocytes appear to have evolved complex mechanoresponsive mechanisms, the effects of which can be observed in the histomorphologic establishment of the cartilaginous skeleton during development and maturation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cattle
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / cytology
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism*
  • Collagenases / genetics
  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 1 Subunit
  • DNA Probes / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • High Mobility Group Proteins / genetics
  • Hydrostatic Pressure
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 13
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Osteogenesis / genetics
  • Osteogenesis / physiology
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 1 Subunit
  • DNA Probes
  • High Mobility Group Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor
  • Transcription Factors
  • Collagenases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 13