Joint TGF-β type II receptor-expressing cells: Ontogeny and characterization as joint progenitors

Tieshi Li, Lara Longobardi, Timothy J. Myers, Joseph D. Temple, Ronald L. Chandler, Huseyin Ozkan, Clara Contaldo, Anna Spagnoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


TGF-β type II receptor (Tgfbr2) signaling plays an essential role in joint-element development. The Tgfbr2PRX-1KO mouse, in which the Tgfbr2 is conditionally inactivated in developing limbs, lacks interphalangeal joints and tendons. In this study, we used the Tgfbr2-β-Gal-GFP-BAC mouse as a LacZ/green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based read-out to determine: the spatial and temporally regulated expression pattern of Tgfbr2-expressing cells within joint elements; their expression profile; and their slow-cycling labeling with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU). Tgfbr2-β-Gal activity was first detected at embryonic day (E) 13.5 within the interphalangeal joint interzone. By E16.5, and throughout adulthood, Tgfbr2-expressing cells clustered in a contiguous niche that comprises the groove of Ranvier and the synovio-entheseal complex including part of the perichondrium, the synovium, the articular cartilage superficial layer, and the tendon's entheses. Tgfbr2-expressing cells were found in the synovio-entheseal complex niche with similar temporal pattern in the knee, where they were also detected in meniscal surface, ligaments, and the synovial lining of the infrapatellar fat pad. Tgfbr2-β-Gal-positive cells were positive for phospho-Smad2, signifying that the Tgfbr2 reporter was accurate. Developmental-stage studies showed that Tgfbr2 expression was in synchrony with expression of joint-morphogenic genes such as Noggin, GDF5, Notch1, and Jagged1. Prenatal and postnatal BrdU-incorporation studies showed that within this synovio-entheseal-articular-cartilage niche most of the Tgfbr2-expressing cells labeled as slow-proliferating cells, namely, stem/progenitor cells. Tgfbr2-positive cells, isolated from embryonic limb mesenchyme, expressed joint progenitor markers in a time- and TGF-β-dependent manner. Our studies provide evidence that joint Tgfbr2-expressing cells have anatomical, ontogenic, slow-cycling trait and in-vivo and ex-vivo expression profiles of progenitor joint cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1342-1359
Number of pages18
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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