Light and electron microscopy are used in this study to compare chondrogenesis in cultured somites with vertebral chondrogenesis These studies have also characterized some of the effects of inducer tissues (notochord and spinal cord), and different nutrient media, on chondrogenesis in cultured somites Somites from stage 17 (54–60 h) chick embryos were cultured, with or without inducer tissues, and were fed nutrient medium containing either horse serum (HS) and embryo extract (EE), or fetal calf serum (FCS) and F12X Amino acid analyses were also utilized to determine the collagen content of vertebral body cartilage in which the fibrils are homogeneously thin (ca. 150 Å) and unbanded. These analyses provide strong evidence that the thin unbanded fibrils in embryonic cartilage matrix are collagen. These thin unbanded collagen fibrils, and prominent 200–800 Å protein polysaccharide granules, constitute the structured matrix components of both developing vertebral cartilage and the cartilage formed in cultured somites Similar matrix components accumulate around the inducer tissues notochord and spinal cord. These matrix components are structurally distinct from those in embryonic fibrous tissue The synthesis of matrix by the inducer tissues is associated with the inductive interaction of these tissues with somitic mesenchyme. Due to the deleterious effects of tissue isolation and culture procedures many cells die in somitic mesenchyme during the first 24 h in culture. In spite of this cell death, chondrogenic areas are recognized after 12 h in induced cultures, and through the first 2 days in all cultures there are larger accumulations of structured matrix than are present in equivalently aged somitic mesenchyme in vivo. Surviving chondrogenic areas develop into nodules of hyaline cartilage in all induced cultures, and in most non-induced cultures fed medium containing FCS and F12X There is more cell death, less matrix accumulation, and less cartilage formed in cultures fed medium containing HS and EE. The inducer tissues, as well as nutrient medium containing FCS and F12X, facilitate cell survival, the synthesis and accumulation of cartilage matrix, and the formation of cartilage nodules in cultured somites.

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