Vol 47, No 1 (2009)
Original paper
Published online: 2009-05-08

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Morphology and physiology of the epiphyseal growth plate.

Franciszek Burdan, Justyna Szumiło, Agnieszka Korobowicz, Rabia Farooquee, Sagar Patel, Ankit Patel, Anjalee Dave, Michał Szumiło, Michał Solecki, Robert Klepacz, Jarosław Dudka
DOI: 10.2478/v10042-009-0007-1
Folia Histochem Cytobiol 2009;47(1):5-16.

Abstract

The epiphyseal growth plate develops from the cartilaginous-orientated mesenchymal cells that express SOX family genes. This multilayer structure is formed by the proliferation and hypertrophy of cells that synthesize the extracellular matrix composed of collagen (mainly type II, IX, X, XI) and proteoglycans (aggrecan, decorin, annexin II, V and VI). The resting zone is responsible for protein synthesis and maintaining a germinal structure. In the proliferative zone, cells rapidly duplicate. The subsequent morphological changes take place in the transformation zone, divided into the upper and lower hypertrophic layers. In the degenerative zone, the mineralization process becomes intensive due to increased release of alkaline phosphate, calcium and matrix vesicles by terminally differentiated chondrocytes and some other factors e.g., metaphyseal ingrowth vessels. At this level, as well as in the primary and secondary spongiosa zones, chondrocytes undergo apoptosis and are physiologically eliminated. Unlike adult cartilage, in fetal and early formed growth plates, unusual forms such as authophagal bodies, paralysis and dark chondrocytes were also observed. Their ultrastructure differs greatly from apoptotic and normal cartilage cells. Chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation are regulated by various endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine agents such as growth, thyroid and sex hormones, beta-catenin, bone morphogenetic proteins, insulin-like growth factor, iodothyronine deiodinase, leptin, nitric oxide, transforming growth factor beta and vitamin D metabolites. However, the most significant factor is parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) which is synthesized in the perichondrium by terminally differentiated chondrocytes. Secondary to activation of PTH/PTHrP receptors, PTHrP stimulates cell proliferation by G protein activation and delays their transformation into prehypertrophic and hypertrophic chondrocytes. When proliferation is completed, chondrocytes release Indian hedgehog (Ihh), which stimulates PTHrP synthesis via a feedback loop. Any disturbances of the epiphyseal development and its physiology result in various skeletal abnormalities known as dysplasia.

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