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The mandibular condylar cartilage (MCC) is an essential component of the temporomandibular joint, which orchestrates the vertical growth of the mandibular ramus through endochondral ossification with distinctive modes of cell differentiation. Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) is a master regulator of chondrogenesis; in the long bone epiphyseal growth plate, PTHrP expressed by resting zone chondrocytes promotes chondrocyte proliferation in the adjacent layer. However, how PTHrP regulates chondrogenesis in the MCC remains largely unclear. In this study, we used a Pthrp-mCherry knock-in reporter strain to map the localization of PTHrP+ cells in the MCC and define the function of PTHrP in the growing mandibular condyle. In the postnatal MCC of PthrpmCherry/+ mice, PTHrP-mCherry was specifically expressed by cells in the superficial layer immediately adjacent to RUNX2-expressing cells in the polymorphic layer. PTHrP ligands diffused across the polymorphic and chondrocyte layers where its cognate receptor PTH1R was abundantly expressed. We further analyzed the mandibular condyle of PthrpmCherry/mCherry mice lacking functional PTHrP protein (PTHrP-KO). At embryonic day (E) 18.5, the condylar process and MCC were significantly truncated in the PTHrP-KO mandible, which was associated with a significant reduction in cell proliferation across the polymorphic layer and a loss of SOX9+ cells in the chondrocyte layers. The PTHrP-KO MCC showed a transient increase in the number of Col10a1+ hypertrophic chondrocytes at E15.5, followed by a significant loss of these cells at E18.5, indicating that superficial layer-derived PTHrP prevents premature chondrocyte exhaustion in the MCC. The expression of Runx2, but not Sp7, was significantly reduced in the polymorphic layer of the PTHrP-KO MCC. Therefore, PTHrP released from cells in the superficial layer directly acts on cells in the polymorphic layer to promote proliferation of chondrocyte precursor cells and prevent their premature differentiation by maintaining Runx2 expression, revealing a unique PTHrP gradient-directed mechanism that regulates MCC chondrogenesis.


C Tsutsumi-Arai, Y Arai, A Tran, M Salinas, Y Nakai, S Orikasa, W Ono, N Ono. A PTHrP Gradient Drives Mandibular Condylar Chondrogenesis via Runx2. Journal of dental research. 2024 Jan;103(1):91-100

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PMID: 38058151

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