Endochondral bone is formed during an avascular period in an environment of low oxygen. Under these conditions, pluripotential mesenchymal stromal cells preferentially differentiate into chondrocytes and form cartilage. In this study, we investigated the hypothesis that oxygen tension modulates bone mesenchymal cell fate by altering the expression of genes that function to promote chondrogenesis. Microarray of RNA samples from ST2 cells revealed significant changes in 728 array elements (P < 0.01) in response to hypoxia. Real-time PCR on these RNA samples, and separate samples from C3H10T1/2 cells, revealed hypoxia-induced changes in the expression of additional genes known to be expressed by chondrocytes including Sox9 and its downstream targets aggrecan and Col2a. These changes were accompanied by the accumulation of mucopolysacharide as detected by alcian blue staining. To investigate the mechanisms responsible for upregulation of Sox9 by hypoxia, we determined the effect of hypoxia on HIF-1α levels and Sox9 promoter activity in ST2 cells. Hypoxia increased nuclear accumulation of HIF-1α and activated the Sox9 promoter. The ability of hypoxia to transactivate the Sox9 promoter was virtually abolished by deletion of HIF-1α consensus sites within the proximal promoter. These findings suggest that hypoxia promotes the differentiation of mesenchymal cells along a chondrocyte pathway in part by activating Sox-9 via a HIF-1α-dependent mechanism.
- Mesenchymal cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism