The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 43: 335 - 342 (1999)

Vol 43, Issue 4

N-CAM is not required for initiation of secondary chondrogenesis: the role of N-CAM in skeletal condensation and differentiation

Published: 1 July 1999

J Fang and B K Hall

Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Condensation precedes chondrogenic differentiation during development of primary cartilage. While neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) enhances condensation, it is unclear whether N-CAM is also required for initiation of chondrogenic differentiation. In this study, the role of N-CAM in secondary chondrogenesis from periosteal cells of the quadratojugal (QJ) from embryonic chicks was studied using several in vitro approaches. The QJ is a membrane bone and so is not preceded by cartilage formation during development. However, QJ periosteal cells can differentiate into chondrocytes to form secondary cartilage in vivo. When QJ periosteal cells were enzymatically released and plated in low density monolayer, clonal or agarose cultures, chondrogenesis was initiated in the absence of N-CAM expression. Furthermore, overexpression of the N-CAM gene in periosteal cells in monolayer culture significantly reduced the number of chondrocyte colonies, suggesting that N-CAM inhibits secondary chondrogenesis. In contrast, and consistent with expression in vivo, N-CAM is expressed during osteogenesis from QJ periosteal cells and mandibular mesenchyme in vitro. These results are discussed in relation to the role of N-CAM in osteogenesis and in primary and secondary condensation.

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