Collagen is the primary structural component in connective tissue. The poor mechanical properties of most cell-seeded cartilage grafts used for cartilage repair can be attributed to the low level of collagen synthesized compared with native cartilage. In this study, the synthesis and assembly of collagen by chondrocytes in hydrogels were investigated, with particular attention paid to the role of cross-link formation in this process. Primary bovine chondrocytes were seeded in alginate and collagen synthesis was assessed in the presence and absence of β-aminopropronitrile (BAPN), a potent inhibitor of the enzyme lysyl oxidase and collagen cross-link formation. Cultures on days 21, 35, and 49 were evaluated by stereology, biochemistry, and real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. All measures of collagen synthesis (except hydroxyproline) significantly increased in the presence of 0.25 mM BAPN. By 35 days of culture, the average collagen fibril diameter was 62 ± 10 nm in control cultures and 109 ± 20 nm with BAPN supplementation. The collagen volume density increased from 5 ± 3% in control cultures to 17 ± 1% in the presence of BAPN. Likewise, the expression of cartilage-specific collagens (type II and XI) and aggrecan increased significantly as a result of BAPN culture. These findings demonstrate the prominent role of collagen cross-linking in collagen fibrillogenesis and suggest approaches by which collagen synthesis and assembly could be controlled in tissue-engineered constructs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology