Limb bud ectoderm inhibits chondrogenesis by limb bud mesenchymal cells cultured at high density or on collagen gels. This ectodermal antichondragenic influence has been postulated to function in vivo in regulating the spatial patterning of cartilage and soff connective tissue in the limb. We have developed a method for preparing ectoderm-conditioned medium containing antichondrogenic activity. Using a simple bioassay, we have investigated some characteristics of the ectodermal products and their effects on limb bud mesenchymal cells. Inhibition of chondrogenesis by ectoderm-conditioned medium was tested on limb bud mesenchymal cells cultured on collagen gels. The antichondrogenic influence involves enhanced cell spreading and is alleviated by agents, such as cytochalasin D, that induce cell rounding. Fibronectin resembles ectoderm-conditioned medium in its ability to inhibit chondrogenesis and promote cell spreading in collagen gel cultures of limb bud mesenchymal cells. However, Western blot analysis shows that the antichondrogenic activity of ectoderm-conditioned medium is not due to fibronectin in the medium. Peptides related to the fibronectin cell-binding domain block the antichondrogenic effect of fibronectin, but not that of ectoderm-conditioned medium. On the other hand, an antibody to an integrin, as well as heparan sulfate, alleviates the antichondrogenic effects of both fibronectin and ectoderm-conditioned medium. The antichondrogenic effect of ectoderm-conditioned medium may be mediated by an integrin and by a cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycan, but it does not depend directly upon fibronectin-mediated cell spreading. © 1990.
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