Chondrocyte hypertrophy and osteoarthritis: role in initiation and progression of cartilage degeneration?

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2012 Mar;20(3):223-32. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2011.12.003. Epub 2011 Dec 11.


Objective: To review the literature on the role and regulation of chondrocyte terminal differentiation (hypertrophy-like changes) in osteoarthritis (OA) and to integrate this in a conceptual model of primary OA development.

Methods: Papers investigating chondrocyte terminal differentiation in human OA cartilage and experimental models of OA were recapitulated and discussed. Focus has been on the occurrence of hypertrophy-like changes in chondrocytes and the factors described to play a role in regulation of chondrocyte hypertrophy-like changes in OA.

Results: Chondrocyte hypertrophy-like changes are reported in both human OA and experimental OA models by most investigators. These changes play a crucial part in the OA disease process by protease-mediated cartilage degradation. We propose that altered chondrocyte behavior and concomitant cartilage degradation result in a disease-amplifying loop, leading to a mixture of disease stages and cellular responses within an OA joint.

Conclusion: Chondrocyte hypertrophy-like changes play a role in early and late stage OA. Since not all cells in an OA joint are synchronized, inhibition of hypertrophy-like changes might be a therapeutic target to slow down further OA progression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Calcinosis / complications
  • Cartilage Diseases / complications
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chondrocytes / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*


  • Biomarkers