In the developing chick embryo tibia type X collagen is synthesized by chondrocytes from regions of hypertrophy and not by chondrocytes from other regions (Capasso, O., G. Tajana, and R. Cancedda, 1984, Mol. Cell. Biol. 4:1163-1168; Schmid, T. M., and T. F. Linsenmayer, 1985, Dev. Biol. 107:375-381). To investigate further the relationship between differentiation of endochondral chondrocytes and type X collagen synthesis we have developed a novel culture system for chondrocytes from 29-31-stage chick embryo tibiae. At the beginning of the culture these chondrocytes are small and synthesize type II and not type X collagen, but when grown on agarose-coated dishes they further differentiate into hypertrophic chondrocytes that synthesize type X collagen. The synthesis of type X collagen has been monitored in cultured cells by analysis of labeled collagens and in vitro translation of mRNAs. When the freshly dissociated chondrocytes are plated in anchorage-permissive dishes, most of the cells attach and dedifferentiate, as revealed by their fibroblastic morphology. Dedifferentiated chondrocytes, after several passages, can still reexpress the differentiated phenotype and continue their development to hypertrophic, type X collagen-synthesizing chondrocytes. Hypertrophic chondrocytes, when plated in anchorage permissive dishes, attach, maintaining the differentiated phenotype, and continue the synthesis of type X collagen.

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