Background: Limited chondrocyte migration and impaired cartilage-to-cartilage healing is a barrier in cartilage regenerative therapy. Collagenase treatment and delivery of a chemotactic agent may play a positive role in chondrocyte repopulation at the site of cartilage damage. This study evaluated chondrocyte migratory activity after enzymatic treatment in cultured cartilage explant. Differential effects of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) dimeric isoforms on the migratory activity were investigated to define major chemotactic factors for cartilage. Methods: Full-thickness cartilage (4-mm3 blocks) were harvested from porcine femoral condyles and subjected to explant culture. After 15 min or 60 min of actinase and collagenase treatments, chondrocyte migration and infiltration into a 0.5-mm cartilage gap was investigated. Cell morphology and lubricin, keratan sulfate, and chondroitin 4 sulfate expression in superficial- and deep-zone chondrocytes were assessed. The chemotactic activities of PDGF-AA, −AB, and -BB were measured in each zone of chondrocytes, using a modified Boyden chamber assay. The protein and mRNA expression and histological localization of PDGF-β were analyzed by western blot analysis, real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and immunohistochemistry, and results in each cartilage zone were compared. Results: Superficial-zone chondrocytes had higher migratory activity than deep-zone chondrocytes and actively bridged the cartilage gap, while metachromatic staining by toluidine blue and immunoreactivities of keratan sulfate and chondroitin 4 sulfate were detected around the cells migrating from the superficial zone. These superficial-zone cells with weak immunoreactivity for lubricin tended to enter the cartilage gap and possessed higher migratory activity, while the deep-zone chondrocytes remained in the lacuna and exhibited less migratory activity. Among PDGF isoforms, PDGF-AB maximized the degree of chemotactic activity of superficial zone chondrocytes. Increased expression of PDGF receptor-β was associated with higher migratory activity of the superficial-zone chondrocytes. Conclusions: In enzymatically treated cartilage explant culture, chondrocyte migration and infiltration into the cartilage gap was higher in the superficial zone than in the deep zone. Preferential expression of PDGF receptor-β combined with the PDGF-AB dimeric isoform may explain the increased migratory activity of the superficial-zone chondrocytes. Cells migrating from superficial zone may contribute to cartilage regeneration.
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