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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2005 (2005), Issue 4, Pages 364-373
Research article

Effects of Extracellular Matrix on the Morphology and Behaviour of Rabbit Auricular Chondrocytes in Culture

1Departamento Biología Celular y Anatomía, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de León, León 24071, Spain
2Departamento de Zootecnia, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real 5000-911, Portugal
3Departamento Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Universidad de León, León 24071, Spain

Received 17 November 2004; Revised 29 April 2005; Accepted 16 May 2005

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Isolated chondrocytes dedifferentiate to a fibroblast-like shape on plastic substrata and proliferate extensively, but rarely form nodules. However, when dissociation is not complete and some cartilage remnants are included in the culture, proliferation decreases and cells grow in a reticular pattern with numerous nodules, which occasionally form small cartilage-like fragments. In an attempt to reproduce this stable chondrogenic state, we added a cartilage protein extract, a sugar extract, and hyaluronan to the medium of previously dedifferentiated chondrocytes. When protein extract was added, many cartilaginous nodules appeared. Hyaluronan produced changes in cell phenotype and behaviour, but not nodule formation. Protein extract has positive effects on the differentiation of previously proliferated chondrocytes and permits nodule formation and the extensive production of type-II collagen. A comparison with incompletely dissociated chondrocyte cultures suggests that the presence of some living cells anchored to their natural extracellular matrix provides some important additional factors for the phenotypical stability of chondrocytes on plastic surfaces. In order to elucidate if it is possible that the incidence of apoptosis is related to the results, we also characterized the molecular traits of apoptosis.