As limb mesenchymal cells differentiate into chondrocytes, they initiate the synthesis of type II collagen and cease synthesizing type I collagen. Changes in the cytoplasmic levels of type I and type II collagen mRNAs during the course of limb chondrogenesis in vivo and in vitro were examined using cloned cDNA probes. A striking increase in cytoplasmic type II collagen mRNA occurs coincident with the crucial condensation stage of chondrogenesis in vitro, in which prechondrogenic mesenchymal cells become closely juxtaposed before depositing a cartilage matrix. Thereafter, a continuous and progressive increase in the accumulation of cytoplasmic type II collagen mRNA occurs which parallels the progressive accumulation of cartilage matrix by cells. The onset of overt chondrogenesis, however, does not involve activation of the transcription of the type II collagen gene. Low levels of type II collagen mRNA are present in the cytoplasm of prechondrogenic mesenchymal cells at the earliest stages of limb development, well before the accumulation of detectable levels of type II collagen. Type I collagen gene expression during chondrogenesis is regulated, at least in part, at the translational level. Type I collagen mRNAs are present in the cytoplasm of differentiated chondrocytes, which have ceased synthesizing detectable amounts of type I collagen.

This content is only available as a PDF.