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OBJECTIVE: Here we investigate whether monolayer culture or culture at 21% oxygen influences activity of cytochrome c oxidase, the terminal enzyme in the respiratory chain whose activity is essential for oxidative metabolism and whether return to three dimensional (3-D) culture restores cytochrome c oxidase activity to original levels. METHODS: Primary bovine articular chondrocytes were cultured in alginate beads (3-D) for 4 weeks or in monolayer under 1% and 21% oxygen for up to 9 days and then returned to 3-D culture for up to 4 weeks. Cells were stained to localise cytochrome c oxidase within the cells. Mitochondrial protein content and cytochrome c oxidase enzymatic activity were determined. Expression of cytochrome c oxidase subunits, COXI and COXIV, was assessed by qRT-PCR. RESULTS: Cytochrome c oxidase staining remained minimal in chondrocytes cultured in alginate for 4 weeks under 21% oxygen. Mitochondrial protein content and cytochrome c oxidase activity increased significantly during 9 days of chondrocyte expansion in monolayer, accompanied by up-regulation of the COXI mitochondrial gene but not the COXIV nuclear-encoded gene. Cytochrome c oxidase staining increased from day 5 of monolayer culture and remained high even after the cells were returned to 3-D culture for 4 weeks. CONCLUSIONS: Culture of chondrocytes in monolayer leads to a rapid increase in mitochondrial protein content and cytochrome c oxidase activity. The increase in cytochrome c oxidase activity is not reversed even after chondrocytes are returned to 3-D culture for 4 weeks; high oxygen tension alone does not appear to stimulate cytochrome c oxidase activity.

Original publication




Journal article


Osteoarthritis Cartilage

Publication Date





1084 - 1092


Animals, Cartilage, Articular, Cattle, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes, Electron Transport Complex IV, Oxygen, Oxygen Consumption, Up-Regulation