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Over 70 mutations in the cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), a large extracellular pentameric glycoprotein synthesized by chondrocytes, have been identified as causing two skeletal dysplasias: multiple epiphyseal dysplasia (MED/EDM1), and a dwarfing condition, pseudoachondroplasia (PSACH). These mutations induce misfolding of intracellular COMP, resulting in retention of the protein in the rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER) of chondrocytes. This accumulation of COMP in the rER creates the phenotypic enlarged rER cisternae in the cells, which is believed to compromise chondrocyte function and eventually cause cell death. To study the molecular mechanisms involved with the disease, we sought to develop an in vitro model that recapitulates the PSACH phenotype. Normal human chondrocytes were transfected with wildtype (wt-) COMP or with mutant COMP (D469del; mt-) recombinant adenoviruses and grown in a nonattachment redifferentiating culture system that provides an environment allowing formation of a differentiated chondrocyte nodule. Visualization of normal cells expressing COMP suggested the hallmarks of the PSACH phenotype. Mutant COMP expressed in normal cells was retained in enlarged rER cisternae, which also retained IX collagen (COL9) and matrilin-3 (MATN3). Although these proteins were secreted normally into the ECM of the wt-COMP nodules, reduced secretion of these proteins was observed in nodules composed of cells transfected with mt-COMP. The findings complement those found in chondrocytes from PSACH patient growth plates. This new model system allows for production of PSACH chondrocyte pathology in normal costochondral chondrocytes and can be used for future mechanistic and potential gene therapy studies.

Original publication




Journal article


J Orthop Res

Publication Date





700 - 707


Achondroplasia, Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes, Collagen Type IX, Endoplasmic Reticulum, Extracellular Matrix Proteins, Glycoproteins, Humans, Matrilin Proteins, Mutation, Phenotype, Transfection