Dedifferentiated chick embryo chondrocytes (Castagnola, P., G. Moro, F. Descalzi-Cancedda, and R. Cancedda, 1986, J. Cell Biol., 102:2310-2317), when transferred to suspension culture on agarose-coated dishes in the presence of ascorbic acid, aggregate and remain clustered. With time in culture, clusters grow in size and adhere to each other, forming structures that may be several millimeters in dimension. These structures after 7 d of culture have the histologic appearance of mature hypertrophic cartilage partially surrounded by a layer of elongated cells resembling the perichondrium. Cells inside the aggregates have ultrastructural features of stage I (proliferating) or stage II (hypertrophic) chondrocytes depending on their location. Occurrence and distribution of type I, II, and X collagens in the in vitro-formed cartilage at different times of culture, show a temporal and spatial distribution of these antigens reminiscent of the maturation events occurring in the cartilage in vivo. A comparable histologic appearance is shown also by cell aggregates obtained starting with a population of cells derived from a single, cloned, dedifferentiated chondrocyte.

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