In previous studies were have reported on the secretion and extracellular deposition of type II collagen and fibronectin (Dessau et al., 1978, J. Cell Biol., 79:342-355) and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) (Vertel and Dorfman, 1979, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 76:1261-1264) in chondrocyte cultures. This study describes a combined effort to compare sequence and pattern of secretion and deposition of all three macromolecules in the same chondrocyte culture experiment. By immunofluorescence labeling experiments, we demonstrate that type II collagen, fibronectin, and CSPG reappear on the cell surface after enzymatic release of chondrocytes from embryonic chick cartilage but develop different patterns in the pericellular matrix. When chondrocytes spread on the culture dish, CSPG is deposited in the extracellular space as an amorphous mass and fibronectin forms fine, intercellular strands, whereas type II collagen disappears from the chondrocyte surface and remains absent from the extracellular space in early cultures. Only after cells in the center of chondrocyte colonies shape reassume spherical shape does the immunofluorescence reveal type II collagen in the refractile matrix characteristic of differentiated cartilage. By immunofluorescence double staining of the newly formed cartilage matrix, we demonstrate that CSPG spreads farther out into the extracellular space that type II collagen. Fibronectin finally disappears from the cartilage matrix.

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