Immunophenotypic changes of human articular chondrocytes during monolayer culture reflect bona fide dedifferentiation rather than amplification of progenitor cells

Jose Diaz-Romero, Dobrila Nesic, Shawn Patrick Grogan, Paul Heini, Pierre Mainil-Varlet
Journal of Cellular Physiology 2008, 214 (1): 75-83
In this study, a time-course comparison of human articular chondrocytes (HAC) and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) immunophenotype was performed in order to determine similarities/differences between both cell types during monolayer culture, and to identify HAC surface markers indicative of dedifferentiation. Our results show that dedifferentiated HAC can be distinguished from MSC by combining CD14, CD90, and CD105 expression, with dedifferentiated HAC being CD14+/CD90bright/CD105dim and MSC being CD14-/CD90dim/CD105bright. Surface markers on MSC showed little variation during the culture, whereas HAC showed upregulation of CD90, CD166, CD49c, CD44, CD10, CD26, CD49e, CD151, CD51/61, and CD81, and downregulation of CD49a, CD54, and CD14. Thus, dedifferentiated HAC appear as a bona fide cell population rather than a small population of MSC amplified during monolayer culture. While most of the HAC surface markers showed major changes at the beginning of the culture period (Passage 1-2), CD26 was upregulated and CD49a downregulated at later stages of the culture (Passage 3-4). To correlate changes in HAC surface markers with changes in extracellular matrix gene expression during monolayer culture, CD14 and CD90 mRNA levels were combined into a new differentiation index and compared with the established differentiation indices based on the ratios of mRNA levels of collagen type II to I (COL2/COL1) and of aggrecan to versican (AGG/VER). A correlation of CD14/CD90 ratio at the mRNA and protein level with the AGG/VER ratio during HAC dedifferentiation in monolayer culture validated CD14/CD90 as a new membrane and mRNA based HAC differentiation index.

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