Human chondrocyte cultures as models of cartilage-specific gene regulation

Methods Mol Med. 2005;107:69-95. doi: 10.1385/1-59259-861-7:069.


The human adult articular chondrocyte is a unique cell type that has reached a fully differentiated state as an end point of development. Within the cartilage matrix, chondrocytes are normally quiescent and maintain the matrix constituents in a low-turnover state of equilibrium. Isolated chondrocytes in culture have provided useful models to study cellular responses to alterations in the environment such as those occurring in different forms of arthritis. However, expansion of primary chondrocytes in monolayer culture results in the loss of phenotype, particularly if high cell density is not maintained. This chapter describes strategies for maintaining or restoring differentiated phenotype by culture in suspension, gels, or scaffolds. Techniques for assessing phenotype involving primarily the analysis of synthesis of cartilage-specific matrix proteins as well as the corresponding mRNAs are also described. Approaches for studying gene regulation, including transfection of promoter-driven reporter genes with expression vectors for transcriptional and signaling regulators, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and DNA methylation are also described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Chondrocytes / cytology*
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism*
  • RNA / metabolism


  • Proteoglycans
  • RNA
  • Collagen