Dedifferentiated chondrocytes reexpress the differentiated collagen phenotype when cultured in agarose gels

Cell. 1982 Aug;30(1):215-24. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(82)90027-7.


The differentiated phenotype of rabbit articular chondrocytes consists primarily of type II collagen and cartilage-specific proteoglycan. During serial monolayer culture this phenotype is lost and replaced by a complex collagen phenotype consisting predominately of type I collagen and a low level of proteoglycan synthesis. Such dedifferentiated chondrocytes reexpress the differentiated phenotype during suspension culture in firm gels of 0.5% low Tm agarose. Approximately 80% of the cells survive this transition from the flattened morphology of anchorage-dependent culture to the spherical morphology of anchorage-independent culture and then deposit characteristic proteoglycan matrix domains. The rates of proteoglycan and collagen synthesis return to those of primary chondrocytes. Using SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of intact collagen chains and two-dimensional cyanogen bromide peptide mapping, we demonstrated a complete return to the differentiated collagen phenotype. These results emphasize the primary role of cell shape in the modulation of the chondrocyte phenotype and demonstrate a reversible system for the study of gene expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Collagen / biosynthesis*
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Gels
  • Peptides / analysis
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteoglycans / biosynthesis
  • Rabbits
  • Sepharose


  • Gels
  • Peptides
  • Proteoglycans
  • Collagen
  • DNA
  • Sepharose
  • Calcium