Gene expression by human articular chondrocytes cultured in alginate beads

S. Chubinskaya, K. Huch, M. Schulze, L. Otten, M. B. Aydelotte, A. A. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Culture of articular chondrocytes in alginate beads offers several advantages over culture in monolayer; cells retain their phenotype for 8 months or longer. Earlier studies of chondrocytes cultured in alginate concentrated on collagen and proteoglycan synthesis. However, gene expression by in situ hybridization (ISH) has not been investigated. The purposes of the present study on human chondrocytes were (a) to modify the ISH procedure for the alginate beads to examine the mRNA expression of α1 (II) procollagen, aggrecan, and two matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-3 and MMP-8) thought to be involved in cartilage matrix degradation, and (b) to compare expression in cultured chondrocytes with that in chondrocytes of intact human cartilage. The modifications made for ISH include the presence of CaCl2 and BaCl2 in the fixation and washing steps and exclusion of cetyl pyridinium chloride. By ISH we show that aggrecan, MMP-3, and MMP-8 are continuously expressed during 8 months of culture. The α1 (II) procollagen gene is expressed only during the first 2 months of culture and after 3 months its expression is undetectable, which is consistent with its absence in adult articular cartilage. By Western blotting, Type II collagen protein had been synthesized and deposited in both the cell-associated and further-removed matrix compartments at 7 and 14 days of culture. These data indicate that chondrocytes cultured in alginate beads could be preserved for immunohistochemistry and ISH and that culture of human chondrocytes in alginate beads may serve as a good model for studying cartilage-specific phenotype as well as factors that influence cartilage matrix turnover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1211-1219
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggrecan
  • Alginate beads
  • Human articular chondrocytes
  • In situ hybridization
  • MMP-3
  • MMP-8
  • Type II collagen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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