Nascent embryonic joints, interzones, contain a distinct cohort of progenitor cells responsible for the formation of the majority of articular tissues. However, to date the interzone has largely been studied using in situ analysis for candidate genes in the context of the embryo rather than using an unbiased genome-wide expression analysis on isolated interzone cells, leaving significant controversy regarding the exact role of the intermediate and outer interzone layers in joint formation. Therefore, in this study, using laser capture microdissection (three biological replicates), we selectively harvested the intermediate and outer interzones of mouse embryos at gestational age 15.5 days, just prior to cavitation, when the differences between the layers should be most profound. Microarray analysis (Agilent Whole Mouse Genome Oligo Microarrays) was performed and the differential gene expression between the intermediate interzone cells and outer interzone cells was examined by performing a two-sided paired Student's t-test and pathway analysis. One hundred ninety-seven genes were differentially expressed (≥2-fold) between the intermediate interzone and the outer interzone with a P-value≤0.01. Of these, 91 genes showed higher expression levels in the intermediate interzone and 106 were expressed higher in the outer interzone. Pathway analysis of differentially expressed genes suggests an important role for inflammatory processes in the interzone layers, especially in the intermediate interzone, and hence in joint and articular cartilage development. The high representation of genes relevant to chondrocyte hypertrophy and endochondral ossification in the outer interzone suggests that it undergoes endochondral ossification.

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Journal Stem Cells and Development
Jenner, J.A, Ijpma, A, Cleary, M.A, Heijsman, D, Narcisi, R, van der Spek, P.J, … van Osch, G.J.V.M. (2014). Differential gene expression of the intermediate and outer interzone layers of developing articular cartilage in murine embryos. Stem Cells and Development, 23(16), 1883–1898. doi:10.1089/scd.2013.0235