Minor cartilage collagens type IX and XI are expressed during embryonic stem cell-derived in vitro chondrogenesis.

Annals of anatomy = Anatomischer Anzeiger : official organ of the Anatomische Gesellschaft

PubMedID: 22959840

Krug D, Klinger M, Haller R, Hargus G, Büning J, Rohwedel J, Kramer J. Minor cartilage collagens type IX and XI are expressed during embryonic stem cell-derived in vitro chondrogenesis. Ann Anat. 2013;195(1):88-97.
Cartilage development is a complex process that can be analyzed using numerous model systems. We have previously shown that in vitro differentiation of murine embryonic stem (ES) cells via embryoid bodies (EBs) recapitulates the cellular differentiation steps of chondrogenesis. However, differentiated chondrocytes lose their characteristic phenotype when they are kept in monolayer culture. This dedifferentiation process is one of the main obstacles of cartilage tissue engineering and could not be analyzed using the EB model system. The aim of this study was to further characterize the chondrogenic nodules derived by in vitro-differentiation of murine ES cells for the distribution of collagen types II, IX and XI in comparison to in vitro dedifferentiating primary chondrocytes from murine embryonic ribs. Expression of cartilage collagens and other extracellular matrix proteins was analyzed using immunostaining, cytochemical stainings and quantitative RT-PCR. We show that ES cell-derived chondrocyte differentiation starts with mesenchymal condensations synthesizing high amounts of fibronectin. Later, the matrix of the mature cartilage nodules consists of type II collagen, proteoglycans and the minor collagens type IX and XI. The nodules show a three-dimensional structure with multiple layers of collagen type II-positive cells. At late differentiation stages these chondrocytes were located at lateral regions of the nodules. Similar to the distribution pattern of collagen type II positive cells, the cells staining positive for collagen type IX and XI were present in the surface regions, but not in the central areas of the chondrogenic nodules. During cultivation of the primary murine rib chondrocytes expression of chondrogenic marker genes such as collagen type II and aggrecan declined and many chondrocytes lost characteristic cartilage matrix proteins and converted to an elongated, fibroblastoid shape with prominent actin stress fibers. Chondrogenic differentiation of murine ES cells combined with monolayer culture of embryonic rib chondrocytes is a valuable tool to study changes in the expression pattern during differentiation and dedifferentiation of chondrocytes.