Retaining zonal chondrocyte phenotype by means of novel growth environments

Eric M. Darling, Kyriacos A. Athanasiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The loss of phenotype in articular chondrocytes expanded in monolayer has been established as a possible contributor to the deficiencies associated with in vitro cartilage engineering and autologous cell transplantation procedures. We cultured zonal articular chondrocytes on tissue culture plastic, collagen II-coated polystyrene, and aggrecan-coated polystyrene in an effort to find a surface that can either prevent or slow the loss of phenotype. In addition, we encapsulated passaged cells in agarose to examine the effect of three-dimensional culture on redifferentiating zonal chondrocytes. We used real-time polymerase chain reaction to measure the relative gene expression levels of collagen I and II, aggrecan, and superficial zone protein over relevant passages (P0-P4). Results showed that tissue culture plastic and the collagen II-coated surface induced rapid loss of phenotype in zonal articular chondrocytes. The aggrecan-coated surface had a less detrimental effect on the chondrocytic phenotype of seeded cells, inducing gene expression characteristics comparable to those of agarose-encapsulated cells. Furthermore, when chondrocytes that had been previously passaged on a collagen II surface were placed on an aggrecan surface, the zonal cells showed a dramatic change in gene expression from fibroblastic to chondrocytic. These results indicate that a culture environment using aggrecan as a substratum or agarose as a scaffold is crucial to the development of phenotypically correct articular cartilage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-403
Number of pages9
JournalTissue Engineering
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology
  • Biotechnology


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