A disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 9 (ADAMTS9) is known to influence aggrecan degradation in endochondral ossification, but its role has not been well understood. In the present study, in vitro gene expression of ADAMTS9 was investigated by RT-PCR in ATDC5 cells in which experimentally chondrogenic differentiation had been induced. We also investigated the protein localization and gene expression pattern of ADAMTS9 in the tibia growth plate cartilage of male mice in a day 1 neonate, 7-week-old young adult, and a 12-week-old adult by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization and compared the results with the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and type X collagen for the identification of proliferative and hypertrophic chondrocyte phenotypes, respectively. We found the gene expression of ADAMTS9 by ATDC5 cells as a dual mode, both before the expression of type X collagen and after hypertrophic differentiation. The immunoreactivity of ADAMTS9 was observed in chondrocytes of proliferative and hypertrophic zones in the growth plate. The population of ADAMTS9 positive cells decreased with age. The results of the present study suggest that ADAMTS9 might have a role in aggrecan cleavage around the chondrocytes to allow chondrocyte proliferation and hypertrophy.
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