A new in situ model of partially digested growth plate cartilage suitable for patch clamp study of membrane currents of chondrocytes from various differentiation stages was developed. Thin sections of growth plate were enzyme digested to expose intact membranes of chondrocytes previously covered by extracellular matrix. This treatment dramatically increased the success rate of tight-seal formation from virtually 0% up to 40%. Whole-cell patch clamp recording revealed a delayed outward rectifying current as the major macroscopic current in chondrocytes of all differentiation stages. This current was sensitive to tetraethylammonium chloride and reversed polarity at a membrane potential close to the equilibrium potential of K+. Chondrocytes at resting stage expressed a much smaller K+current than the proliferative and hypertrophic chondrocytes. When the current amplitudes were normalized for the cell membrane area, proliferative cells expressed a significantly higher outward current density. © 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
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