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Highly Accessed Review

The life cycle of chondrocytes in the developing skeleton

Lillian Shum and Glen Nuckolls*

Author Affiliations

Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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Arthritis Res 2002, 4:94-106  doi:10.1186/ar396

Published: 8 November 2001

Abstract

Cartilage serves multiple functions in the developing embryo and in postnatal life. Genetic mutations affecting cartilage development are relatively common and lead to skeletal malformations, dysfunction or increased susceptibility to disease or injury. Characterization of these mutations and investigation of the molecular pathways in which these genes function have contributed to an understanding of the mechanisms regulating skeletal patterning, chondrogenesis, endochondral ossification and joint formation. Extracellular growth and differentiation factors including bone morphogenetic proteins, fibroblast growth factors, parathyroid hormone-related peptide, extracellular matrix components, and members of the hedgehog and Wnt families provide important signals for the regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Transduction of these signals within the developing mesenchymal cells and chondrocytes results in changes in gene expression mediated by transcription factors including Smads, Msx2, Sox9, signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT), and core-binding factor alpha 1. Further investigation of the interactions of these signaling pathways will contribute to an understanding of cartilage growth and development, and will allow for the development of strategies for the early detection, prevention and treatment of diseases and disorders affecting the skeleton.

Keywords:
cartilage; chondrogenesis; endochondral ossification; limb bud; neural crest cells