Objectives: CCN family 2/connective tissue growth factor (CCN2/CTGF) is an atypical growth factor for growth plate chondrocytes. It plays an important role in their proliferation and differentiation in vitro, but does not stimulate hypertrophy or calcification of articular chondrocytes. We herein report for the first time that CCN2/CTGF promotes growth and differentiation of auricular chondrocytes and maintains their molecular phenotype in vitro and in vivo. Methods: Auricular chondrocytes were isolated from rabbit auricular cartilage by trypsin-collagenase treatment, and treated with human recombinant CCN2/CTGF or infected with adenovirus harboring the ccn2/ctgf gene. Cell proliferation was measured by [3H] thymidine incorporation and MTS assay, and changes in gene expression of auricular chondrocyte markers were monitored by real-time polymerase chain reaction, Northern hybridization, and histological analysis. For in vivo studies, auricular chondrocytes were cultured as pellets and implanted subcutaneously after treatment of recombinant human CCN2/CTGF. Ectopically formed cartilage was subjected to histological analysis. Cell death was monitored by in situ TUNEL analysis. Results: CCN2/CTGF stimulated proliferation, differentiation and synthesis of elastin and proteoglycans of rabbit primary auricular chondrocytes in a dose-dependent manner. CCN2/CTGF caused a 2.5-fold increase in the expression of elastin in comparison to the control, resulting in enhanced deposition of elastin fibers in a monolayer culture of auricular chondrocytes. Mineralization was not induced; in contrast, CCN2/CTGF stimulated expression of matrix gla protein which is known to impair mineralization. Furthermore, pretreatment of pellets of auricular chondrocytes with CCN2/CTGF and subcutaneous implantation significantly enhanced the growth of ectopic auricular cartilage pieces expressing phenotypic markers of auricular chondrocytes including type II and X collagen. Notably, chondrocyte apoptosis was impaired by CCN2/CTGF. Conclusions: These findings show that CCN2/CTGF may be a suitable agent for promoting differentiation and growth of auricular chondrocytes, while preventing mineralization and apoptosis, and suggests that CCN2/CTGF may be useful for the repair or reconstruction of elastic cartilage.
- Auricular chondrocytes
- Matrix gla protein
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine