Defining the earliest transcriptional steps of chondrogenic progenitor specification during the formation of the digits in the embryonic limb
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AuthorLorda Diez, Carlos Ignacio; Montero Simón, Juan Antonio; Díaz Mendoza, Manuel Jesús; García-Porrero Pérez, Juan Antonio; Hurlé González, Juan Mario
The characterization of genes involved in the formation of cartilage is of key importance to improve cell-based cartilage regenerative therapies. Here, we have developed a suitable experimental model to identify precocious chondrogenic events in vivo by inducing an ectopic digit in the developing embryo. In this model, only 12 hr after the implantation of a Tgfβ bead, in the absence of increased cell proliferation, cartilage forms in undifferentiated interdigital mesoderm and in the course of development, becomes a structurally and morphologically normal digit. Systematic quantitative PCR expression analysis, together with other experimental approaches allowed us to establish 3 successive periods preceding the formation of cartilage. The "pre-condensation stage", occurring within the first 3 hr of treatment, is characterized by the activation of connective tissue identity transcriptional factors (such as Sox9 and Scleraxis) and secreted factors (such as Activin A and the matricellular proteins CCN-1 and CCN-2) and the downregulation of the galectin CG-8. Next, the "condensation stage" is characterized by intense activation of Smad 1/5/8 BMP-signaling and increased expression of extracellular matrix components. During this period, the CCN matricellular proteins promote the expression of extracellular matrix and cell adhesion components. The third period, designated the "pre-cartilage period", precedes the formation of molecularly identifiable cartilage by 2-3 hr and is characterized by the intensification of Sox 9 gene expression, along with the stimulation of other pro-chondrogenic transcription factors, such as HifIa. In summary, this work establishes a temporal hierarchy in the regulation of pro-chondrogenic genes preceding cartilage differentiation and provides new insights into the relative roles of secreted factors and cytoskeletal regulators that direct the first steps of this process in vivo.
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