Single cells from enzymatically dissociated chick embryo tibiae have been cloned and expanded in fresh or conditioned culture media. A cloning efficiency of approximately 13% was obtained using medium conditioned by dedifferentiated chondrocytes. A cloning efficiency of only 1.4% was obtained when conditioned medium from hypertrophic chondrocytes was used, and efficiencies of essentially 0 were found with fresh medium or medium conditioned by J2-3T3 mouse fibroblasts. Cell clones were selected by morphological criteria and clones showing a dedifferentiated phenotype (fibroblast-like) were further characterized. Out of 38 clones analyzed, 17 were able to differentiate to the hypertrophic chondrocyte stage and reconstitute hypertrophic cartilage when placed in the appropriate culture conditions. Cells from these clones expressed the typical markers of chondrocyte differentiation, i.e., type II and type X collagens. Clones not undergoing differentiation continued to express only type I collagen. Hypertrophic chondrocytes from differentiating clones were analyzed at the single cell level by immunofluorescence; all the cells were positive for type X collagen, while approximately 50% of them showed positivity for type II collagen.

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