Osmolarity determines the in vitro chondrogenic differentiation capacity of progenitor cells via nuclear factor of activated T-cells 5

Marjolein M. J. Caron, Anna E. van der Windt, Pieter J. Emans, Lodewijk W. van Rhijn, Holger Jahr, Tim J. M. Welting*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Web of Science)


Introduction: Previous studies have shown that human articular chondrocytes in vitro are osmolarity-responsive and increase matrix synthesis under cartilage-specific physiological osmolarity. The effects of increased osmolarity on chondrogenesis of progenitor cells in vitro are largely unknown. We therefore aimed to elucidate whether hyperosmolarity facilitates their chondrogenic differentiation and whether Nfat5 is involved. Materials and methods: ATDC5 cells and human bone marrow stem cells (hBMSCs) were differentiated in the chondrogenic lineage in control and increased osmolarity conditions. Chondrogenic outcome was measured by gene- and protein expression analysis. RNAi was used to determine the role of Nfat5 in chondrogenic differentiation under normal and increased osmolarity. Results: Increasing the osmolarity of differentiation medium with 100 mOsm resulted in significantly increased chondrogenic marker expression (Col2al, Col10al, Acan, Sox9, Runx2 and GAGs) during chondrogenic differentiation of the two chondroprogenitors, ATDC5 and hBMSCs. Nfat5 knockdown under both control and increased osmolarity affected chondrogenic differentiation and suppressed the osmolarity-induced chondrogenic induction. Knockdown of Nfat5 in early differentiation significantly decreased early Sox9 expression, whereas knockdown of Sox9 in early differentiation did not affect early Nfat5 expression. Conclusions: Increasing the osmolarity of chondrogenic culture media by 100 mOsm significantly increased chondrogenic gene expression during the course of chondrogenic differentiation of progenitor cells. Nfat5 may be involved in regulating chondrogenic differentiation of these cells under both normal and increased osmolarities and might regulate chondrogenic differentiation through influencing early Sox9 expression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-102
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Chondrogenic differentiation
  • Nfat5
  • Progenitor cells
  • Osmolarity
  • Sox9

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