The cranial base is formed by endochondral ossification and functions as a driver of anteroposterior cranial elongation and overall craniofacial growth. The cranial base contains the synchondroses that are composed of opposite-facing layers of resting, proliferating and hypertrophic chondrocytes with unique developmental origins, both in the neural crest and mesoderm. In humans, premature ossification of the synchondroses causes midfacial hypoplasia, which commonly presents in patients with syndromic craniosynostoses and skeletal Class III malocclusion. Major signaling pathways and transcription factors that regulate the long bone growth plate-PTHrP-Ihh, FGF, Wnt, BMP signaling and Runx2-are also involved in the cranial base synchondrosis. Here, we provide an updated overview of the cranial base synchondrosis and the cell population within, as well as its molecular regulation, and further discuss future research opportunities to understand the unique function of this craniofacial skeletal structure.
Keywords: chondrocyte(s); cranial base; craniofacial development; endochondral ossification; osteoblast; regeneration; skeleton; synchondrosis.