Biochemical evidence for gap junctions and Cx43 expression in immortalized human chondrocyte cell line: a potential model in the study of cell communication in human chondrocytes

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2014 Apr;22(4):586-90. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2014.02.002. Epub 2014 Feb 14.


Objective: The development of chondrocytic cell lines has enabled the investigation of the role of cellular phenotype and mechanisms in articular cartilage biology and physiopathology of several rheumatic diseases. Among them, the T/C-28a2 cell line has become a common tool in cartilage research. Recent results from our group have revealed that primary human chondrocytes in tissue and in monolayer culture contain high levels of connexin 43 (Cx43) and are able to directly communicate through gap junction (GJ) channels. These results challenge the existing thesis of cartilage physiology, that chondrocytes do not have the capacity to physically communicate with each other. Established cell lines offer the advantage of convenience and uniformity; however, the establishment process may cause a disruption of GJ. This study was performed to investigate if T/C-28a2 cells contain Cx43 protein and form functional channels.

Methods: Cx43 was characterized by RT-qPCR, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry (IHC). Electrophysiology experiments, Lucifer Yellow (LY) uptake, electroporation in situ and scrape loading assay were performed to test the functionality of GJs.

Results: T/C-28a2 cells express Cx43. Electrophysiology experiments and LY uptake confirmed the capacity of these cells to communicate through GJ channels, although these cells contain significant levels of active c-Src kinase, presumably due to their immortalization with the Simian Virus 40 large T antigen. The results were validated using primary chondrocytes (PC).

Conclusions: These results reveal that the T/C-28a2 line may provide a useful in vitro model for the study of Cx43 function and cell communication to understand the physiology of chondrocytes and cartilage.

Keywords: Articular chondrocyte; Cartilage; Cx43; Gap junction; Hemichannels; T/C-28a2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • CSK Tyrosine-Protein Kinase
  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism*
  • Cell Communication / genetics
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Chondrocytes / cytology
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism*
  • Connexin 43 / genetics
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Gap Junctions / genetics
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • src-Family Kinases / metabolism


  • Connexin 43
  • CSK Tyrosine-Protein Kinase
  • src-Family Kinases
  • CSK protein, human